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Full text of "The Gilead guards : a story of war-times in a New England town"

THE UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 

LIBRARY 




THE WILMER COLLECTION 

OF CIVIL WAR NOVELS 

PRESENTED BY 

RICHARD H. WILMER, JR. 






Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 



http://www.archive.org/details/gileadguardsstorOOscot 




"THIS loyal young lady went TO HER Room and 

CRIED LIKE ANY OTHER MORTAL." 

Page 22. 



THE 



GILEAD GUARDS 

A STORY OF 

WAR-TIME^ IN A NEW ENQLAND 
TOWN 

BY MRS. O. W. SCOTT 

AUTHOR OF 

Nettie and Her Friends, Santa Claus Stories, Boys and Other Boys, 
Girls of To-day, etc. 




NEW YORK: HUNT & EA TON 
CINCINNA TI: CRANSTON & STOIVE 

i So i 



Copyright, 1891, by 

HUNT & EATON, 

New Yokk. 



TO 
THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF NEW ENGLAND, 

AND 

TO MY NATIVE STATE, 

WHOSE 

"GREEN MOUNTAIN BOYS'* 

NEVER LEFT A FLAG IN THE HANDS OF THE REBELS 
DURING THE CIVIL WAR, 

THIS STORY OF PATRIOTIC LIVING 

is 

afftctionattlp ©fbirattb. 



535303 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. page 

Gilead's First War Sermon 7 

CHAPTER II. 
Plowshares into Swords 23 

CHAPTER III. 
A Pastoral Visit 36 

CHAPTER IV. 
A Strange Test 50 

CHAPTER V. 
A Peculiar Angel 62 

CHAPTER VI. 
Sunday Noon 74 

CHAPTER VII. 
"Company F" S7 

CHAPTER VIII. 
Blue Suits 99 

CHAPTER IX. 
On to Dixie 109 

CHAPTER X. 
Austin's Letter 122 

CHAPTER XI. 
Mrs. Phelps's Thanksgiving Sermon 132 

CHAPTER XII. 
The Emancipation Proclamation 142 



6 CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER XIII. page 

A Fallen Hero 155 

CHAPTER XIV. 
Esther's School 164 

CHAPTER XV. 
Victoria Victrix 173 

CHAPTER XVI. 
Gilead's " Soldiers' Aid " 182 

CHAPTER XVII. 
Comfort-bags 194 

CHAPTER XVIII. 
Self-denial Supplies 205 

CHAPTER XIX. 
Two Lives for One 217 

CHAPTER XX. 
" Your Vegetables or Vour Life ! " 230 

CHAPTER XXI. 
Hiel's Experience 240 

CHAPTER XXII. 
From the Shadow of Death 252 

CHAPTER XXIII. 
The Raid and a Raider 261 

CHAPTER XXIV. 
Ruby's Hero 271 

CHAPTER XXV. 
Thanksgiving Again 282 

CHAPTER XXVI. 
Swords into Plowshares 292 



THE GILEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER I. 

GILEAD'S FIRST WAR SERMON. 

THERE was nothing in the rural town of Gil- 
ead on that lovely June Sabbath in 1862 to 
suggest warfare of any kind. 

Looking around you might have seen wide corn- 
fields, hill pastures covered with verdure to their 
very tops, sleepy cows lying beside shaded brooks, 
lazily chewing their cuds, and long dusty roads lead- 
ing past quiet farm-houses. Farther away, out- 
lined clearly against the quiet sky, were long spurs 
of the Green Mountain range, encircling the town 
and completely shutting it in from the outside 
world. 

You would have said, " Beautiful for situation ! " 
and so it was ; even to the small unambitious vil- 
lage which crowned an elevation near the center of 
the town, where were two churches, a court-house, 
bank, and a few other unpretentious public build- 
ings in the midst of pleasant homes. The churches, 
one white, the other light brown, stood on either 
side of an inclosed plot of ground called the " com- 
mon." You might have wondered why it was in- 
closed, for it was overgrown with weeds and this- 



S THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

ties, and crossed from gate to gate by two narrow 
paths, showing that it was open to the public, and 
not a " private institution." It was also surrounded 
by a row of trees, tiny maples, most of them, which 
were nearly all dead and stood as mute witnesses 
against a " village improvement society " which had 
built the fence, set out the trees, and then died of 
exhaustion. 

But the fence was not simply a relic, since to its 
post-rails, Sunday after Sunday, were fastened the 
horses which brought the farmers' families to church. 
There they stood on this particular Sabbath, with 
bowed heads and half-closed eyes; their tails lazily 
switching the flies away, voluntarily enforcing the 
natural " Sunday law," whose only enemy is man. 

Two or three village loafers sat on the store 
steps just around a corner, talking and spitting to- 
bacco-juice right and left, their soiled clothing and 
unshaven faces bearing witness against them. But 
even they gave vent to their stale jokes and lifeless 
gossip in lower tones than usual, irresistibly sub- 
dued by the pervading quiet and peace of the day. 
Possibly, too, they felt the influence of tones which 
occasionally resounded from the nearest pulpit; 
seeming to bring them, in their forlorn condition, 
uncomfortably near to their neglected " gospel 
privileges." They knew very well whose voice it 
was, and as it grew more distinct with increasiugV 
earnestness, Jack Bragg remarked uneasily : 

"The elder appears to be havin' a remarkable 
free time." 

And this was also the opinion of the people who 
filled the plain, old-fashioned white church, as they 



GILEAD'S FIRST WAR SERMON. 9 

always did when it was noised abroad that " Elder 
Putnam " was to be present on one of his official 
quarterly visits. 

The young pastor of the church looked upon this 
popularity with a jealous eye, and decided to watch 
the man more carefully, to ascertain, if possible, by 
what secret power he drew from their homes men 
and women who had never been affected in the least 
by his own eloquence. But with the reading of the 
text on this occasion his anxieties began, increasing 
with the progress of the sermon until he was wholly 
unfit to prepare a calm synopsis of that discourse 
or any other. The text was, " O thou sword of the 
Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet ? " 
The preacher read it twice with great distinctness, 
standing before the people, tall, dark, and spare, 
like some self-renouncing prophet with a message 
from the Lord. Then followed Gilead's first war 
sermon. 

It may seem strange that this was true, but the 
town was far from the centers of excitement and 
action ; so, although more than one year of war 
had passed into history, this isolated little place had 
sent but few to the front. A few there had been, 
of the best and the worst young men, who had hur- 
ried away at the first alarm ; but the great majority 
were still reading their own town paper, the Stand- 
ard, and the New York Tribune, and impatiently 
waiting for the "rulers" to settle the "little un- 
pleasantness." 

But their loyalty and personal interest had been 
pent up quite as long as was possible, and this ser- 
mon was like a match thrown among prepared com- 



10 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

bustibles. The pastor, Rev. G. Harmon Phelps, 
looked into the faces of the people in amazement 
as they listened to the fiery sentences which fol- 
lowed each other in rapid succession, often enforced 
by resounding thumps upon the pulpit. The 
elder was never a quiet man in preaching, but 
now he paced back and forth, his iron-gray hair 
tossed from his forehead, his face alive with intense 
feeling. 

" Ah," said he, " what shall we say of this terrible 
sin of slavery ? Men have dared to buy and sell 
and torture their brother-men ; and the question as 
to whether it was right or wrong has been thrown 
back and forth in our legislative halls until it has 
been molded into a red-hot cannon-ball, and God 
says, 'Use it for the down-trodden and the oppressed.' 
God has been patient. He kept silent until the 
heavens were rent with the cries of his enslaved 
children, and then he stretched forth his hands, and 
this nation is being shaken by the fierceness of his 
wrath." 

Esquire Fletcher, who occupied a prominent pew 
and was listening intently, brought his gold-headed 
cane down upon the floor with emphasis, and 
groaned audibly. 

" You have thought slavery was a horrible sin, 
no doubt, but how can you measure a sin that does 
not seemingly touch you or your interests? 

" But God, according to his word, is revealing to 
this nation, and to us as individuals, the magnitude 
of this sin by demanding a corresponding sacrifice. 
And O, what a price to pay ! When your brave 
boys stand in the day of battle to fight for those 



GILEAD'S FIRST WAR SERMON. 11 

who cannot fight for themselves, then you will be- 
gin to understand God's opinion of this great ques- 
tion." 

Two or three women, mothers of " brave boys," 
covered their faces ; but with outstretched hand 
the minister continued : 

" Sin never fully showed its hideousness until the 
great Sacrifice was offered once for all ; and slavery, 
the special sin of this nation, never looked as black 
as it will when the altars of our country are drenched 
with patriotic blood." 

Turning from the description of sin to the possi- 
bility of its triumph, the preacher aroused the loy- 
alty of his hearers by referring to the struggles of 
their forefathers, and the true significance of national 
liberty; appealing to them, as they valued their 
inherited blessings, to defend them, if need be, with 
their lives. 

It is impossible to convey an idea of the intensity, 
the fierce energy, with which the sermon was de- 
livered. It was this even more than the Avords 
which electrified the people. Not that they evinced 
any special excitement, for that was not customary 
in New England country towns ; but one who un- 
derstood them as well even as their pastor might 
safely predict results. 

In a certain pew sat Mr. Rollins, who had kept all 
the newspapers out of his home, lest his two grown- 
up sons should " catch the war fever." His face wore 
a look of stern disapproval which was faithfully 
reflected in that of his wife ; who, being on the 
sunny side of the house and close to a large, un- 
shaded window, had spread her green gingham par- 



12 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

asol, from whose protecting shade she sent her 
wrathful glance toward the pulpit. 

The boys sat between their parents ; and their 
mother noted with a heart-pang that Thomas was 
preternaturally quiet, while Andrew was constantly 
running his fingers through his well-oiled hair until 
it stood up in every direction. Just in front sat 
Mr. Douglas, a man of Scotch descent, whose opin- 
ions were always worth considering. He felt sure 
from the first that his son David's fate was decided. 
But he listened, and weighed arguments, and ad- 
mitted evidence, and made up his mind to submit 
bravely to the inevitable, even while a voice from 
the depths of his heart was crying, " My son, my 
son, my only son, can I give you up?" 

There, too, was poor little Mrs. Follinsbee, dis- 
solved in tears because her big broad-shouldered 
husband, who had been growing restless of late, was 
assuming a martial air, and indorsing, silently but 
unmistakably, every word of the sermon. 

In the gallery, which rose behind and above the 
high "box pulpit," was the choir, numbering a dozen 
or more young people. 

At the head of the soprano sat Ruby Fletcher, 
the squire's only child. Her cheeks were crimson 
with excitement, and her eyes glowed as she fol- 
lowed the discourse and watched the people in the 
pews below. She wished she were a man, that she 
might dash away at once and win glory upon a 
battle-field. As she was only a woman, she began 
to wonder if Abram Steele felt as she did, and wished 
she could catch one glimpse of his face. But Abram 
was chorister, and sat near the melodeon at the 



GILEAD 'S FIRST WAR SERMON: 13 

rear, quietly turning the leaves of his singing-book. 
Don Stanley, who sat next to Ruby, at the head of 
the bass singers, gave an answering nod to her in- 
quiring glance; and Joe Armstrong, just beyond, 
seemed profoundly moved, but kept his eyes fixed 
upon the minister. His wife was behind Ruby, with 
baby Nellie; and, having written a note to Joe on a 
leaf torn from her hymn-book, she begged Ruby to 
pass it to him, whispering as she did so : 

" He needn't think he is going. I wont let him. 
I wish that minister was in Texas." 

"Don't talk that way, Vic," replied Ruby. 
" Somebody has got to go, and if you love your 
country just keep still and help Joe get ready. I 
would, if I were in your place." 

" You don't know any thing about it. I don't 
care two cents for my country, and Joe's worth 
more than all the negroes. O, dear! O, dear!" 

And Vic ended her frenzied whisper with an hyster- 
ical sob which all the singers heard, especially poor 
Joe, whose eyes filled with tears as he thought of 
what it would be to leave wife and baby. The ser- 
mon closed at length, and, like the echo of a bugle- 
call " America " was read. The choir and con- 
gregation tried to sing it, but the volume of sound 
which the good old tune usually carried was lack- 
ing, and at the last verse it became almost a bass 
and tenor duet. One voice, however, sustained the 
air to the end, and that was Ruby Fletcher's. Her 
father, who, as usual, was keeping time with his cane, 
noticed an expression upon her face which reminded 
him of a picture of Joan d'Arc, hanging in his li- 
brary at home ; and he said to himself, " If Ruby 



14 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

were a boy she would enlist to-morrow." But Ruby 
was not a boy, and so it was an easy matter for 
Esquire Fletcher to hasten forward a little later, 
shake hands with the minister, and say, " That was 
grand, elder! Just what was needed to rouse our 
boys. If you had called for volunteers you'd have 
got them, I'm sure." 

" Perhaps Mr. Fletcher would not feel quite so 
pleased if we had a son to send," said his wife. 

" No, that he wouldn't," said Mr. Douglas, ex- 
tending his hand. " He would close his lips and 
pray for courage, as I do, when I think of my 
David." 

Mr. Putnam wiped the perspiration from his fore- 
head and turned with a look of deep sympathy at 
this remark. 

"And do you think he will surely go?" he in- 
quired, then added, half-regretfully, " I have been 
surprised at the way the subject has opened before 
me. I was led out to speak of things I had not 
thought to mention, and yet I meant it all, breth- 
ren, every word of it." 

" Of course ! of course ! " responded Mr. Douglas, 
heartily. " I've been convinced for some time that 
we would have to do our part ; but it comes hard on 
us who have boys." 

" I have two in the field already," said the min- 
ister, in a husky tone; " so I know just how it is." 

Mrs. Follinsbee, a meek, hard-working woman, 
naturally very retiring, now pressed forward, her 
eyes red with weeping. 

" My husband will go to war now, I know he 
will," said she, " and you are responsible ! " 



GILEAD 'S FIRST WAR SERMON. 15 

" O, I hope not, I trust not ! Your husband 
would not take such a step without serious thought 
and deep conviction, I am sure," said the minister, 
looking really distressed. But Mrs. Follinsbee only 
shook her head and hurried away. 

Mr. Rollins, who had formerly expressed high 
admiration for Mr. Putnam, did not stop to shake 
hands. Instead, he expressed his opinion, outside 
of the door, in a subdued Sunday growl : 

" Did ye ever hear such stuff? I come to meetin' 
to hear the Gospel, and if a man can't preach the 
Gospel he better keep away from Gilead." 

" O, well," answered Mr. Steele, good-naturedly, 
" this 'ere war may be a gospel war. I can't tell. 
He preached just what he believes, and I wouldn't 
wonder if he got it about right." 

" A minister has no business to preach politics, 
any way," snapped Mrs. Rollins, who was envelop- 
ing herself in a ' linen duster ' in view of her three- 
mile ride. " We rode away down here this hot day 
to listen to an edifyin' sermon, and I got the boys to 
come, and here they've got their minds all joggled 
up about this war business, and next we know they'll 
be 'listin', Thomas and Andrew both, fer they 
always go together;" and a sound like a sob fol- 
lowed the last word, which she seemed to transfix 
with the pin she used to fasten the duster at the 
throat. 

Mr. Steele, who was very lame, sat down in the 
little vestry to wait until Abram came to the door 
with the family wagon. He was generally very 
prompt, but to-day he lingered in the gallery, pre- 
tending that the melodeon, which had a chronic 



16 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

weakness in the bellows, needed special attention. 
After the other members of the choir had left, Ruby 
Fletcher came back for a forgotten glove, as Abram 
had begged her to ! 

" Well? " said she, inquiringly, her face still glow- 
ing with the Joan d'Arc expression. 

" I must go ; I suppose you know that ? " said he, 
lightly and yet decidedly. 

" Yes," she answered, fully understanding, " and 
I only wish I could go too." 

" May I come up to see you a little while this 
evening ?" was the next question, and Abram closed 
and locked the melodeon nervously before he looked 
at her. 

" Yes, if you want to," responded Ruby ; and then 
she ran down the stairs to join her father, her heart 
throbbing strangely, while hot tears rushed to her 
eyes. Mr. Fletcher was still talking with the two 
ministers ; while her mother, the Steele girls, and 
Miss Hancock were gathered about Mrs. Judge 
Plumley, whose son was captain of a cavalry com- 
pany. She belonged to the " other church," but, 
being engaged in packing a box for the " boys," had 
come across the " common " to give the ladies an 
opportunity to send packages if they desired to 
do so. 

" We haven't many friends there yet," said Miss 
Hancock ; " but there's no telling when we shall 
have. After the sermon we had to-day it'll be a 
wonder if men enough stay at home to do the hay- 
ing." 

" Be thankful you've nobody to send, Miss Han- 
cock," said Mrs. Plumley, tenderly. 



GI LEAD'S FIRST WAR SERMON. 17 

"But haven't I?" responded that lady. "Look 
at my Sabbath-school class ! A dozen young men 
that I've had since they wore dresses — some of them, 
any way — and haven't I told them war stories by 
the hour? I thought, as I watched their faces to- 
day, that I had done my part toward preparing 
them. I wanted them to be brave, but not for 
this." 

But the noise of wheels at the door called the 
Steele girls away, and very soon the old meeting- 
house was silent ; and the dust settled upon the 
great Bible and hymn-book, the spiders went on 
weaving lace curtains over the bare windows, the 
pews assumed again that look of peculiar emptiness 
which characterizes church pews during the week, 
and the old sexton, who lived just across the street, 
laid down his paper and hobbled over to lock the 
door ; but the words which had been spoken were 
not shut in. They were already like seed scattered 
broadcast, destined to bring forth much fruit. 

Mr. Steele's horse, tired and hungry after his long 
fast, could hardly wait until the family were seated 
in the carriage to start for home. He went pranc- 
ing and curveting through the village, only settling 
into a respectable trot when the long hill was 
reached. 

It seemed natural then that the sermon should be 
discussed, but there was an ominous silence instead. 
Abram used his whip assiduously upon the birch 
saplings which almost touched the wheels ; for the 
hill road ran through delightful woods whose shade 
was doubly welcome on a melting summer's day. 
His father was absorbed in his own meditations, and 



IS THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

Esther and Mary did not care to break the spell. So 
the mile and more between church and home was 
passed without a word on the exciting topic of the 
day. 

But the news had been in advance of them, for 
the Hickey boys, who lived beyond Mr. Steele's, 
had discovered Benjie standing under some plum- 
trees, book in hand, while he " watched the bees," 
whose expected swarming had kept him at home. 

" Hello ! " they called, approaching with long 
strides, their Sunday coats hanging over their arms, 
their hats pushed back from perspiring foreheads. 

" Whew ! " ejaculated John Henry, using his hat 
for a fan. "You look nice 'nd comfort'ble here in 
the shade, Benjie. I tell you it's too hot to dress 
up in meetin' clothes. Good things has to be 
lined, I s'pose, but lining's a nuisance such weather 's 
this." 

" You'd orter heard Elder Put's sermon, though," 
interposed George, drawing a long " ribbon grass " 
over his thumb ; " every body's wide awake, I tell 
you. It was a regular fightin' sermon ; 'nd all the 
boys 're ready to enlist. You'd orter seen their 
faces, and the women's faces too. O, my! you'd 
thought 'twas a funeral, to see 'em cry. You'll find 
out Abram '11 go ; I could sec how he looked 
in behind his singin'-book. Ruby Fletcher, too — 
she grew red in the face, 'nd her eyes snapped, 'nd 
I'll bet she wished she was a boy, so she could go, 
She wont keep Abram from goin'; you c'n bet your 
life on that ! " 

" Some of the old men got to talkin'," interrupted 
John Henry, "and I heard 'em say that Abram 



G I LEAD 'S FIRST WAR SERMON: 19 

would be an officer if he went. He's a grand good 
feller, Abram is." 

It made Benjie feel an inch taller to hear his 
brother praised, but he only said, " I don't know- 
about that ; I guess there's a good many that want 
to be officers." 

"Yes," said John Henry, gathering himself up 
to go on, " it aint likely any Gilead boy will want 
to be less 'n captain ; though if I enlist I'll be sat- 
isfied with first lieutenant's place ;" and his big sober 
mouth broadened, and his eyes twinkled in visible 
appreciation of the joke. 

As the two brothers walked on, Benjamin hurried 
into the house, where he found the family just ready 
to sit down to a late dinner, which also answered for 
an early supper. 

" Have you really made up your mind to go to 
war, Abram?" asked the boy, excitedly, as he slid 
into his place. "The Hickey boys think so, any- 
how." 

"Benjamin!" cried his mother, with quick ap- 
prehension, "what are you talking about? The 
Hickey boys ought to be in better business than 
telling such stuff on Sunday." 

Abram looked at his father and the girls with a 
queer smile. " They were only following the minis- 
ter's example, I guess. But the fact is we might as 
well face this thing first as last ;" and Abram threw 
back his broad shoulders. " I do expect, if I live, to 
enlist." 

" O, Abram ! " and with grief-stricken face his 
mother looked at him, while . her eyes filled with 
tears. 



20 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

" Wish 't I was old enough to go too," said Rcnjie 
in a low tone, giving Abram an admiring nod. 

Mr. Steele buttered the piece of bread on his 
plate and cut it into sections. " It don't surprise 
me much to hear you say so, Abram," he said at 
length, his voice husky in spite of strong self-con- 
trol. " I know that many must die for the sins of 
the nation, but I have hoped there'd be enough to 
settle the question without drawing on Gilead. 
Seems to me we haven't many to spare." 

" There's none to spare," interrupted his wife. 
" The farms will grow up to weeds while the boys 
are down South getting shot for nothing." 

"You don't mean for nothing, mother," said Es- 
ther, leaning forward with flushed cheeks and tear- 
ful eyes. " The minister said the Right would win 
sooner or later." 

" I see you are all on Abram 's side, quite willing 
to have him go and leave your poor lame father 
alone," answered her mother, reproachfully. 

" O, now, mother, you know better than that," 
said Abram. " Father wont be left alone. Austin 
must come home, of course, because he can't go any 
way. He's only twenty, but he can help do the 
farm work as well as I, and I'm sure it is his turn 
after a year in Boston. Why, mother, I have 
been thinking about this for some time, and I 
wonder now that I could have waited so long. 
You would despise me if I stayed at home like a 
coward." 

" There's enough that can go and never be 
missed," was his mother's only answer as she looked 
into his manly face, now full of animation. 



GI LEAD'S FIRST WAR SERMON. 21 

"Did the bees swarm, Benjamin?" asked Mr. 
Steele. 

" No, sir ; I thought they was going to, but I guess 
there was some trouble with the queen bee. Any- 
how, they finally settled down." 

" May be she didn't want them to leave the old 
hive," said Abram, with a glance at his mother. But 
she did not answer it, perhaps did not hear his 
remark. 

The family were not in the habit of talking freely 
about matters that affected them most deeply; and, 
true to their training, they finished the meal almost 
in silence, though their hearts ached with dread 
and apprehension. 

That evening Abram went to see Ruby Fletcher. 
In quiet, staid Gilead a Sunday-night visit was full 
of meaning and supposed to be a sure indication of 
"something serious." Ruby understood this, and 
with the exaltation of the day still unsubdued she 
put roses in her hair and upon her breast, and sat 
behind the vines in the broad veranda watching for 
him. They had always known each other, and it 
was tacitly agreed by interested friends that they 
would some time " make a match ; " but there had 
never been a formal engagement. 

That night, however, when Abram left Esquire 
Fletcher's he was quite ready for congratulations. 
Ruby had greeted him as a hero, and it seemed the 
most natural thing in the world to promise herself 
as a reward when he should return from battle-fields, 
bearing honors, titles, and, possibly, wounds. When 
he suggested that Ruby only cried out, in her im- 
pulsive fashion : 



22 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

" As though that would make any difference ! 
I'd rather have you come back with only one arm 
than stay at home and keep both." 

It is needless to say that Ruby was more patriotic 
than the majority of young ladies. Her father had 
" talked politics " with her mother and herself until 
they thoroughly understood the condition of na- 
tional affairs ; and, as she inherited his ardent, im- 
pulsive temperament, she echoed his sentiments even 
to the limit of self-abnegation. But, after bidding 
Abram a cheerful good-night, this loyal young lady 
went to her room and cried like any other mortal ; 
proving by heartache and tears that her sacrifice 
was no less real because it was offered with a self- 
forgetful enthusiasm. 

As for Abram, we must forgive him if he held his 
head higher than usual as he strode toward home. 
All desirable good seemed within his grasp. Ad- 
venture, patriotic daring and danger, faithful service, 
advancement, glory, and — Ruby ! He had not 
known until that day the possibilities within him- 
self; and as he stood at his father's door he turned 
and looked across the fields and upon the meadows 
through which the river ran, all so still under the 
starlight, and wondered that he had stayed in 
Gilead so long. How small the place looked in the 
light of the future ! How uneventful and barren 
his life had been ! But now it was to expand and 
grow richer and nobler as he gave himself to his 
country as a patriot soldier. And, looking up into 
the serene heights above, he thanked God for life 
and the prospect that opened before him. 



PLOWSHARES INTO SWORDS. 23 



CHAPTER II. 

PLOWSHARES INTO SWORDS. 

ABRAM'S exalted state of mind was in no sense 
disturbed by his visions of the night ; and he 
appeared at the breakfast-table with a radiant face, 
which his mother scanned with troubled eyes. 

" You don't look as though you expected to leave 
home and friends in a little while, Abram," said she, 
passing him the fragrant johnny-cake. 

" O, now, mother, don't go to thinking that I 
shall get killed in the first battle. I expect to go 
and come back again to take care of you in your 
old age. Of course you feel bad, but what could 
you expect of a boy that has read Uncle Toms 
Cabin through as many times as I have ? Why, I 
tell you I have almost learned that by heart. And 
then think how father 's taken the Tribune and 
Harper's Weekly all this year past, until we're full 
of fight, and ready to give advice to every general 
in the army ; " and Abram laughed cheerily, as 
though the whole subject was one to make merry 
over. 

" The Tribune comes out pretty strong — pretty 
strong," said his father, with emphasis on the first 
syllable, but otherwise sure of his ground. " None 
too much so, though; for people and papers can't 
stand on the fence these days." 

" I guess we don't stand on the fence," said Ben- 



24 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

jie, his mouth hardly cleared in his haste to speak. 
" It would be funny, after hearing so much about 
slavery, if none of father's boys should have a hand 
in getting rid of it." 

" Austin would be the one to go if he was of 
age," said Mary. " He's all for excitement and 
change ; but I don't see how we can get along with- 
out Abram. Austin never '11 carry us to meetings 
and singing-school as you do, Abram. But there 
wont be a singing-school or any thing else, will 
there ? Who'll sing bass and tenor when all the 
boys are gone ? " And Mary, who was just learning 
to sing, looked around with a doleful face. 

" O, the girls will learn all parts, and have a fe- 
male choir, probably. And you can learn to chop 
wood, and ride on the mowing-machine, and do lots 
of things. Why, Mary, it will be almost as good as 
though you were a boy." 

As Mary was rather noted for her scorn of wom- 
anly duties this provoked a laugh at her expense ; 
and Abram was very careful to lead the conversation 
from that point away from the exciting topic of the 
day. Breakfast finished, Mr. Steele read a chapter 
from the Bible and offered prayer, which opened 
their hearts anew and sent every member of the 
family in a different direction, as soon as they rose 
from their knees, to hide the tears they could not 
check. Left alone in the sunny sitting-room, Mr. 
Steele settled himself once more in his broad old 
arm-chair and opened his Bible. This was a long- 
established habit of his ; in fact, his wife had often 
groaned in spirit when, on a bright morning, he 
would become so interested in a text as to sit hunt- 



PLOWSHARES INTO SWORDS. 25 

ing up references for an hour, when, in her opinion, 
he should have been differently employed. But for 
a few years past she had left him in peace, since his 
increasing lameness had made him incapable of 
protracted labor — and then, there was Abram ! 
He had really taken charge of affairs almost wholly 
since, two years before, he came from school be- 
cause he learned that his father was borrowing 
money to keep him there. He had a very high re- 
spect for his father's mental and moral qualities, 
but saw that, through his goodness and confidence 
in his fellow-men, he was constantly liable to impo- 
sition. Abram could never forget how, when Mr. 
Slocum's old blind ox fell into their ditch, his father 
had sent him over with one of their best cows to 
make " lawful restitution," and how Mr. Slocum 
had chuckled over the matter, accepting the cow 
even while he declared that the old ox " would have 
been killed for beef the next week any way ! " 
Abram was a little fellow at the time, but he lay up 
in the hay-mow a long while crying over the loss of 
the cow, and trying to decide what was right and 
what was wrong, not daring to take his perplexity 
to his father ; for, while Mr. Steele erred on the 
side of mercy in his dealings with the world, he was 
a rigid disciplinarian in his family and encouraged 
no confidential conferences with his children. But 
now Abram, without interfering with his father in 
any way, had established a sort of " protectorate " 
over his interests, and was trying, with a prospect 
of success, to pay off the mortgage and make 
needed improvements. His position as the head 
of affairs was tacitly acknowledged, and old Mr. 



26 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

Slocum, who was still apt to " overreach," showed 
his respect for the young man by building several 
rods of rail-fence which he had always insisted " be- 
longed to Steele." Abram laughed when his 
father cited it as an indication that Mr. Slocum was 
" growing clever in his old age." And now that 
this strong, reliable son was about to leave him it 
was not strange that Mr. Steele felt the need of 
consolation and read psalm after psalm until his 
mind was at rest. 

But the mother could not take time from her busy 
morning to read the Bible. As she skimmed pans of 
milk in the cool pantry, transferring the rich yellow 
cream to earthen jars, she recalled Abram's baby- 
hood and boyhood; and the love which had been 
growing all these years protested against his decision. 
Such was her temperament that she saw but one 
possible result of his going, which was a fatal shot 
on a pitch-dark battle-field ! Her imagination ran 
on until she saw him buried in an unknown grave, 
the homestead sold, and herself and her husband, 
reduced to extreme poverty, on their way to the 
poor-house. And yet in the very midst of these 
gloomy pictures she decided, like so many, many 
mothers in those dreadful days, to make the best of 
what seemed inevitable. 

As for the cause of all these sad anticipations, he 
went to his work with a martial tread, feeling that 
he must accomplish as much as possible before leav- 
ing the old farm. Benjie kept close by, as though 
a new partnership had been formed between them, 
quite ready to air his views of Abram's prospects as 
a soldier, and to " bet " any amount that he would 



PLOWSHARES INTO SWORDS. 27 

speedily be called to some high position. They 
had been in the field but a short time when a loud 
"Hullo!" called their attention to the roadside, 
and there they found Joe Armstrong. 

" I can't work this morning," said he, dejectedly. 
"Guess I can't do any thing till this thing is 
settled, for if you go, Abram, I must. Vic cried 
and took on so last night that I tried to give it all 
up, but I can't. It makes me sick to think of it. 
Seems if I should die if I don't go, 'nd I don't know 
but Vic '11 die if I do." 

The distress in Joe's honest eyes was not as- 
sumed, by any means, and yet Abram laughed as he 
said, "Why, Joe, you've got the war fever bad, 
and of course you must go. I don't believe Vic will 
die, though she'll miss you dreadfully. Some women 
arc not so brave as others ; they can't help it." 

And Abram's heart glowed at the thought of 
Ruby's enthusiasm. In fact, his heart had been in 
a blissful condition ever since he received her royal 
blessing, and no difficulty looked very serious in the 
light of his present experience. Joe's lip quivered 
as he replied : 

" Vic don't seem to see any good in it yet. 
She just sees me, you know, 'nd she's afraid I'll get 
shot. Then there's little Nellie ; but for all that I 
feel 's if I must go." 

Love of country and love for his pretty, shiftless 
wife and the baby were evidently making it hard 
for Joe. 

" Well, I'll tell you what I'd do," said Abram, 
after a little pause. " I'd go to work and fix things 
up and get one of her brothers — there's Frank, for 



28 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

instance — to stay with her and carry on the farm ; 
and then, when the recruiting office is open, as it 
probably will be soon, why, you just enlist, and 
there you are ! " 

Joe straightened himself and drew a long breath. 

" That's what I will do. I don't know what 
makes me feel so plaguey bad, but since that sermon 
yesterday, seems 's if I'm all afire ; 'nd I tossed and 
tumbled all night." 

" It's catching, Joe. You needn't explain the 
symptoms to me," laughed Abram. 

Joe strode away, his face much brighter than 
when he came; and as he hurried home "'cross 
lots" he decided just what he ought to do. And 
" ought " was a strong word with Joe. He had 
been a poor boy, and had grown up in Gilcad, 
working here and there, going to school when he 
could, and winning a good many friends in place of 
the father and mother he had lost. Not that he 
had much petting, for the wise people in Gilead 
did not think that was good for little boys, but 
they had been fairly kind to him. They brought 
up their calves on skim milk and then boasted of 
their size and general excellence ; so, now that Joe 
had outlived his skim-milk days, they felt a degree 
of pride in his prosperity, for Joe had bought and 
cleared a piece of land just at the foot of the mount- 
ain and built a pretty little house. The neigh- 
bors encouraged him and gave their approval to 
that project ; but when he married Victoria Cleo- 
patra Shaw they groaned in concert. 

" That silly, lazy thing ! " they said, looking at 
their own sensible, industrious daughters. 



PLOWSHARES INTO SWORDS. 29 

Victoria was the only girl in a family of seven 
boys, and her mother, a romantic, aspiring woman, 
whose life of toil gave her only imaginary bliss, had 
spoiled Victoria by allowing her to spend her time 
in idleness. The young lady read fashion magazines 
and story-papers enough to break down the strong- 
est mind ; and her affections were about equally 
divided between them, her pretty clothes, and Joe. 
But Joe was satisfied with his " thirds," and his big, 
generous heart overflowed with gratitude whenever 
he thought of the prize he — a homely, awkward fel- 
low, as he called himself — had secured. In this state 
of mind he still continued, in spite of his queen's 
imperfections ; and it was no wonder that he had a 
struggle between his love of wife and country. But 
in deciding to enlist he had no idea of giving his 
life — that was Vic's. He just wanted to go down 
and help knock the breath out of slavery. That 
was all ! Vic had not touched the breakfast-table 
that morning, and when Joe came and stood in 
the door-way she sat with her hands clasped in 
her lap, listlessly watching little Nellie, who was 
creeping about the unswept floor in company with 
a couple of chickens that had ventured in after 
crumbs. She only pouted at Joe, and said not a 
word. 

" Don't feel bad any more, Vic," said he. " I'm 
going to work. We wont cross the bridge till we 
get to it, anyhow. Want me to see if I c'n get 
some of them peas for dinner? " 

" If ye want to," said Vic, sullenly. 

" Well, I will. Come, now, you fix up a little and 
see to the milk, wont von ? I'm afraid we wont 



30 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

make butter enough for ourselves if the cream aint 
took care of." 

" I don't want no butter if you go to war," sobbed 
Vic. 

Joe, seeing the uselessness of argument, discreetly 
withdrew after kissing the baby and driving out 
the chickens. 

If any one could have taken a bird's-eye view 
of Gilead that day he would have seen other young 
men than Abram and Joe who were quite ready to 
beat their plowshares into swords and start for 
battle-fields. He would have seen them gathered 
by twos and threes at convenient corners where 
" lots " joined, and made friendly consultations 
practicable, while the " team " rested, and grass 
and grain waited and waved in the sunshine. 

But perhaps, after all, Miss Hancock gathered 
the news nearly as fast as one could, even with an 
unusually extensive outlook. Not that Miss Han- 
cock was a gossip ! She detested the character 
and did not deserve it ; nor could we correctly say 
that she " gathered " news. 

It seemed to come to her naturally, because of her 
relation to the place and the people ; and, having said 
this, it may be as well to introduce Miss Hancock 
more fully, because she was, as Mrs. Judge Plumley 
said, " a person you ought to know." Prudentia 
Hancock, then, was the last of her family in Gilead, 
and at this time was a little past forty. But she 
was youthful in appearance, her small, trim person, 
unwrinkled face, and keen black eyes having appar- 
ently made a truce with Father Time. She had 
been the tailoress in Gilead, but as sewing-machines 



PLOWSHARES INTO S WORDS. 31 

came into use, and ready-made clothing was added 
to the miscellaneous stock of goods in all country 
stores, and a man tailor opened a shop at the " Cen- 
ter " with a great parade of advertisements, her cus- 
tomers gradually slipped away. Her work could 
not be excelled, especially her button-holes, which 
defied the ravages of time; but her patterns did not 
conform to the latest styles ; and in some way her 
customers had ascertained that there was a change 
in the mode of cutting, and a few new tricks in the 
disposal of buttons and braid, so that only a few of 
the "older inhabitants " who wore " sheep's-gray " 
and scoffed at fashion remained upon her list. She 
had a little home of her own, next door to the par- 
sonage, and some money in the bank ; but what 
healthy independent New England woman is satis- 
fied to fold her hands until she is obliged to ? So 
of course Miss Hancock took up dress-making and 
nursing. 

And in the sick-room she found a new kingdom. 
Her voice, naturally strong and decided, sank to a 
most sympathetic purring — not a whisper, that 
rasping, nerve-tearing whisper which makes a pa- 
tient frantic and gives him a wild desire to raise the 
roof and send the nurse flying up toward the starry 
heavens, but a calm, cheerful, even tone which 
made a man hope to live, or, if he must die, glad to 
be in so good hands at the last. 

But Miss Hancock was valued quite as much for 
what she was as for what she did. She was intel- 
ligent and original, a " great reader," and very fond 
of good poetry. She admired Bryant and Long- 
fellow and Whittier, but if she found in the Standard 



32 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

a little poem which struck her fancy she embalmed 
it in her memory and pasted it in her scrap-book in 
close companionship with " Thanatopsis " or some 
other " rich relation," as she said. 

As she would pick a blue violet whose hue was 
deeper than that of its neighbors, so she was con- 
stantly discovering these little gems of poetry and 
prose ; and many a time her sharp shears paused in 
their legitimate work of pattern-cutting to rescue 
them from some old newspaper. " Rare birds fly 
low sometimes, so don't look for all the singers in 
the tops of trees," she would say. Looking back 
through the years, one sees certain characters clearly 
outlined against the horizon of his youth. Others 
are forgotten or recalled with difficulty ; but these, 
through an individuality which was not fully recog- 
nized then, are like friends of yesterday. The tone 
of voice, the peculiar gesture, the varying expres- 
sion, are all remembered. Miss Hancock is such a 
character. If she were not this digression would 
have been shorter. On this particular day, however, 
at half past three in the afternoon, Miss Hancock 
closed and locked the door of her little house, put 
the key in her pocket, looked back to see if the 
curtains were all drawn, and then hastened down 
street toward Esquire Fletcher's. This pleasant 
home was just outside the village, surrounded by 
trees and shrubbery and beds of blooming flowers ; 
while beyond was the farm, comprising acres of 
well-cultivated land. 

Miss Hancock's brisk walk terminated when she 
reached the garden, for she never could get past 
Mrs. Fletcher's flowers without bending over them 



PLOWSHARES INTO SWORDS. 33 

a moment for a breath of their fragrance. But the 
next moment she walked in through the wide cool 
hall, and tapped on the sitting-room door. 

"Yes, it's me," said she, in response to a cordial 
greeting. " I started to come at seven o'clock, cal- 
culating to finish your dress before this time, but 
such a time 's I've had. I expect from appearances 
my Sunday-school boys are all going to enlist — all 
but two. Johnny Dyke is lame, and Charles Clark 
isn't eighteen. I tell you I feel like a lone pelican 
upon the house-top. Where's the scissors, Ruby? 
I'll work and talk, too." 

" Never mind the work ; tell us about the boys," 
said Ruby, clasping her hands tightly, as was her 
habit when excited. 

" Well, first come Hiram Follinsbee, and wanted 
me to talk with his wife. So I went over and stayed 
an hour, maybe, getting her calmed down. Of course 
I didn't tell her, but I couldn't help thinking that 
Hiram would do better for her in the army than 
anywhere else. He's a great strong man, and will 
do a good day's work for any body but Hiram Fol- 
linsbee. Take him at home and he's real shif'less. 
But then, she thinks he's perfection, and that's all 
the law requires. Well, next come Don Lester, to 
hand me some work I got his mother to help me 
finish off; and when I asked him what he thought 
of the sermon he said he indorsed it, and if his 
mother would consent he should go with the boys." 

" His mother never will consent, I'm sure. Why, 
Donald is all she has," said Mrs. Fletcher. 

"Yes, but you can't tell. She's one of these 
quiet, long-suffering women that wouldn't say a 
3 



34 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

word if Don thought 'twas duty to go. That's my 
opinion of her, though, of course, living here so few 
years, we none of us feel much acquainted. Well, 
then, don't you think ! That Mrs. Smith drove down 
from the mountain, and wanted to get me to make 
some fine shirts for her boys! She's bound they 
shall have every thing nice if they go. I had to 
laugh ! I told her they wouldn't want fine bosom- 
shirts if they went to war. If you believe it, she was 
real disappointed ; for she had her butter-money, and 
she just wanted to lay it out on her three boys. I 
told her there'd be ways enough to spend it before 
they left. On the way down she heard that Abram 
Steele and Joe Armstrong and the Hickey boys 
would likely enlist, and O, dear me, who'll be left, 
I wonder ! There's your father with the paper, 
Ruby. Do ask him to come in and tell us the 
news." 

" Father always wears his spectacles to the post- 
office now, so he needn't lose a minute," said Ruby, 
as she ran out. 

"There's no special news to-day," said Esquire 
Fletcher as he seated himself, "only a summing up 
of particulars about McClellan's retreat. Seven 
days' fighting on the way, winding up with Malvern 
Hill, you know — just before the last call for three 
hundred thousand more. Our side lost more than 
fifteen thousand men, and didn't take Richmond 
either. I declare it's enough to make a man sw — " 

"There, Mr. Fletcher, don't say it," interposed 
his wife. "Of course you don't know how many 
difficulties he has to contend with." 

"That's so; but if the Lord's got a man any- 



PLOWSHARES INTO SWORDS. 35 

where that can take that splendid army and do 
something with it I wish he'd fetch him along. I 
wouldn't wonder a bit if Lee marched up through 
Maryland and took Washington while our men are 
fugling round down there." 

"Well," sighed Miss Hancock, "it seems that 
our boys will be needed." 

" Needed ? Yes, indeed ! Our Gilead boys have 
got to go down there and show them how to do it ;" 
and the old gentleman looked at Ruby with a 
meaning smile. She tried bravely to return it, but 
it was a failure. She turned to the window and hid 
her face, thinking of the fifteen thousand brave boys 
who would never come back. 



36 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER III. 

A PASTORAL VISIT. 

" ' Yes, we'll rally round the flag, boys, 

Rally once again, 
Shouting — ' " 

" T)ENJAMIN,please don't sing that anymore;" 

\~J and Mrs. Steele turned toward the boy who 
was singing at the top of his voice — a voice that 
was just now trying to decide where it belonged, 
and breaking in unexpected places — one of the 
many patriotic songs which surged through the 
North clear as bugle-calls, arousing all hearts to a 
new enthusiasm. Benjie sat down and removed his 
big straw hat. 

" It keeps runnin' in my head, mother," said he. 
" I tell you it sounded good when Miss Bailey sung 
it last night at the concert. She was all dressed in 
white, you know, and she had a big flag — " 

But his mother had left the room, and Esther 
patiscd, broom in hand, to say : 

" Now, Benjie, don't you trouble mother so. She 
feels bad about Abram's going, and you ought to be 
careful. What's the news? Is the recruiting office 
open yet?" 

" Will be to-morrow. I went round by Judge 
Plumley's office while the horse was bein' shod, and 
lots of men was there. Wint Allen's home, struttin' 
'round in his uniform, and John Bartlett — he's come 



A PASTORAL VISIT. 37 

from Boston. Some of the boys think he expects 
to be captain of the new company. Don Stanley 
rode to the corner with me, and he's goin'. His 
mother said — well, what's the matter with you ? O, 
I know — you like him ; you like him ! " and the un- 
feeling boy doubled up over his straw hat, more 
amused than alarmed by his sister's evident distress. 

" Benjie Steele ! " gasped Esther, while her face 
grew as red as it had been white, " don't you dare 
say one word. Why, I'm ashamed of you. Now, 
Benjie ! " 

" Well, you get me a big hunk of pie and I wont. 
I don't care. He's a good feller. Like him if you 
want to; " and with this brotherly sanction Benjie 
seized the wedge of pie which had been speedily 
brought, settled his hat with one dextrous thrust, 
and ran away. 

Esther sat down and covered her face, surprised 
and ashamed that she had betrayed her secret, and, 
above all, overwhelmed by the news. They had 
thought Don would never leave his mother; but 
now — well, what right had she to grieve ? He had 
been friendly and polite, nothing more ; and Esther 
took herself to task at once with all the conscien- 
tiousness of a girl trained to a Puritanic modesty 
and reticence. She seized the broom and began 
work with redoubled energy. Meanwhile her 
thoughts ran on according to a law of their own, and 
tears came to her eyes in spite of indignant protest. 

Don Stanley and his mother had come to Gilead 
several years before and settled near the mills just 
below the village, where he obtained employment ; 
but, the location proving unfavorable, he had hired 



38 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

a little house not far from Joe Armstrong's, where 
his mother might have the benefit of mountain air, 
and walked every day to and from his work. They 
had a humble home and lived in a modest way, but 
there were certain indications that they had seen 
"better days." The widow, in her fine, plain black 
dresses and clinging crape, with her refined manner 
and speech, was accused of " feeling above her 
neighbors ; " while Don, who was like her, only with 
the advantages of youth and strength, was called 
" stuck-up " by his uncouth associates. But a few 
friends they had won, among whom were Abram 
and Esther, Miss Hancock, and Ruby Fletcher, 
all of whom respected their well-bred reserve, and 
felt, as Miss Hancock expressed it, that " where 
they came from and whether they had any ' folks ' 
or not was their own business. Any body could see 
with half an eye that they had an ancestry." 

And this young man, erect, polite, intelligent, so 
much like those of whom Esther had read, had un- 
wittingly won more than her friendship. Poor Es- 
ther ! She felt that sultry morning that the war was 
no longer " down South," but right there in Gilead, 
invading homes, breaking hearts. Somehow the 
spirit of loyalty which had enabled her to bear the 
thought of Abram 's going was not sufficiently 
strong to meet this emergency. She hurried from 
one duty to another impetuously, upbraiding her- 
self for the pain that would not be " disciplined," 
fretted by the heated kitchen and the never-ending 
routine of housework. But the dinner-hour, so full 
of weariness, was at length over. The work was 
" done up," as New Englanders say, and at three 



A PASTORAL VISIT. 39 

o'clock the farm-house, within and without, was 
ready for a quiet afternoon. Even the hens seemed 
to understand the programme, for, after bristling 
and clucking about the yard all the forenoon, they 
retreated to the currant-bushes or plum-trees, under 
which they quietly reveled in nests which they hol- 
lowed for themselves in the warm dust. 

From a distant field came the voices of the men 
at work, mingled with the rattle of machinery, and 
there was in the air a murmur of insect life ; but all 
sounds were muffled by the heat, which made the 
sunshine itself look faded as it quivered through 
trees whose leaves hung limp and motionless. On 
a board by the woodshed was a shining pyramid of 
tin pans and pails and an empty churn whose clean 
" flyers " hinted of aching arms. Crossing the well- 
swept " shed- room," we catch a glimpse of the 
kitchen with white floor and well-blacked stove, be- 
hind which sits the "wood-box" full of wood, 
"hard and soft," it being one of Benjie's daily 
afflictions to keep it well supplied. Near a wide 
lounge, in an old rocker which swung to and fro with 
many a complaining creak, sat Mrs. Steele, braiding 
rags to be coiled and sewed " round and round " 
into a rug, which, once finished, would last nearly 
a life-time. Flies buzzed sleepily on the little win- 
dow-panes, and in the side door opening into an 
entry between kitchen and sitting-room lay Carlo, 
a handsome foxy-looking dog, extended at full 
length. In the sitting-room an old-fashioned brass 
clock ticked lazily — the children said it always knew 
when rest-time came, and lost its sharp peremptory 
tone — and at either end of the broad shelf which 



40 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

held it were piles of newspapers. There was a 
book-case with glass doors and a home-made desk 
neatly covered, which was Abram's property. A 
spider-legged melodeon, a three-and-a-half-octave 
instrument of wonderful capacity, stood between 
the two west windows ; and in the middle of the 
floor was a large table, hinting at family gatherings 
at " meal time " and on long evenings. The floor, 
as you saw it between round and oblong rugs, was 
"spruce yellow," smooth and shining. 

Here Esther sat in her pink calico afternoon dress, 
holding her work, but not sewing, only idly tracing 
figures on the window-pane, against which the lilac 
bushes outside tapped and scratched. She was still 
grieving, as girls will grieve over a first sorrow ; but 
sorrow seldom has a whole afternoon to itself; and 
Esther's reverie was interrupted by her mother, who 
hurried in, exclaiming, 

" Quick, Esther, open the parlor. The minister and 
his wife are coming, and I must get on my best 
cap ! " 

She had barely time to roll up the curtains, raise 
the windows, and remove Mary's best bonnet from 
the table before the Rev. G. Harmon Phelps and 
his wife were ushered in by her mother, whose 
" best cap " gave slight indications of a hasty adjust- 
ment. 

Mrs. Steele shook up the feather cushion in the 
rocking-chair to a plumper puffiness, and begged 
the minister to sit down ; but with due respect for 
the heat, and his wife, he generously waved her to- 
ward the cushion and seated himself upon what 
was called a " settee," a sort of wooden sofa with 



A PASTORAL VISIT. 4i 

rockers. Esther slipped away for a moment to put 
on a white apron, smooth her hair afresh, and ex- 
amine her eyes to see if they gave evidence of the 
tears that were constantly threatening to overflow. 
Meanwhile her father had put the minister's horse 
in the barn with a generous supply of oats before 
him, and then limped into the house as fast as pos- 
sible to make himself ready to entertain his honored 
guest. For in this home, always open to ministers, 
there still prevailed an old-fashioned idea that a 
servant of the King was to be treated with special 
respect. 

During these preliminaries the minister and his 
wife were examining the daguerreotypes and books 
arranged upon the table, the pictures that hung 
upon the wall, and smiling a little over the mantel 
ornaments — a plaster-of-paris bouquet, balanced by 
a kneeling Samuel of the same material, a huge 
conch shell, and a pair of glass candlesticks each 
holding a fresh tallow candle. These last were not 
for ornament, but use, as Mr. Steele cherished the 
opinion that ''kerosene was 'mazin' unsafe." 

This young couple had had the misfortune to be 
reared in a city, hence they were constantly meet- 
ing the "unexpected" in their pastoral visits; 
and sometimes it took the form of bric-a-brac and 
sometimes that of the people themselves. And 
the minister was often quite as much interested 
in one as the other. He had begun his work in 
the ministry honestly believing that he had some 
new " methods " that would regulate society ; and 
he came to Gilead expecting the people would 
crowd to hear him ; expecting they would regard 



42 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

him with a sort of worshipful affection. But to 
his surprise, after listening a few Sabbaths, they 
began to grow indifferent ; and, as the summer heat 
increased, the honest farmers who had worked hard 
through the week would settle down comfortably in 
their pews and go to sleep almost before he had 
announced his text. This was very discouraging, 
and he told his wife confidentially that he did not 
believe any other man ever had such an ignorant, 
unappreciative audience as his was. 

Like all young ambitious souls, he was meeting 
difficulties that had been met and overcome by 
thousands of his brethren ; but every David has to 
face his own Goliath, who always looks taller and 
stronger to him than any other giant that was ever 
seen or heard of. In that "dark age" of pulpit- 
building he was architecturally raised high above 
the people, and constitutionally and theologically 
he was elevated still higher, so that really he was 
a long distance from the " five smooth stones " that 
still lay in the brook. 

When on the previous Sabbath he saw his vener- 
able brother in the ministry, who had no alma 
mater, hurling thunder-bolts right and left ; when 
he saw old and young awake and excited, moved 
and melted in turn, he was well-nigh distracted ; 
and he told his wife — that long-suffering little 
woman, who had to bear all his inconsistencies dur- 
ing this erratic period — that Mr. Putnam had taken 
advantage of his knowledge of slavery, politics, etc., 
to arouse the people. For his part he questioned 
the propriety of such a course. He thought the 
civil war was an abominable mistake which might 



A PASTORAL VISIT. 43 

have been prevented " if, and if; " until Mr. Phelps, 
who did not realize " the spring of all his woes," 
felt constrained to advocate " pastoral calls," 
hoping thus to change the tide of his thought. 
This was one cause of the visit at Mr. Steele's, which, 
after a brief distraction, as already noted, progressed 
much after the usual fashion, save that Mrs. Phelps, 
with watchful skill, prevented any reference to the 
war or the " war sermon." And so a couple of 
hours passed, and Mary came home from school, 
and the sun crept around to the west windows, 
sending its slanting rays through shielding rose- 
bushes, on which birds sat and swung, peeping in at 
the busy talkers. 

And then Esther and her mother withdrew to pre- 
pare tea, and the boys came from the field tired 
and hot, to be intercepted and hurried up-stairs 
that they might make a little extra preparation 
before meeting " the minister's folks." And then 
came supper, heralded by a delightful odor of tea 
and warm cream biscuits, and other uncommonly 
toothsome dainties. 

" Abram," said the minister as he broke one of 
the biscuits, "how will you enjoy soldier's fare after 
eating such dainties as these? " 

" Not very well, I dare say," was the hearty an- 
swer; " but Uncle Sam can hardly be expected to 
furnish home fare." 

" I hope you will have an appetite for what you 
get, so many of the boys are sick in camp. I 
think more and more that this war is a stupendous 
mistake," continued Mr. Phelps, while his wife 
vainly tried to introduce another subject. 



44 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

" Of course it is a mistake, but not ours," an- 
swered Abram. " We fight to defend our rights 
and protect the helpless. I thought the sermon last 
Sunday proved that clearly enough. Didn't you?" 

" Well, really, I can't say that I did ; " and the 
minister balanced his spoon thoughtfully on the 
edge of his cup. " These are days that call for 
caution and reserve in expressing our opinions. 
Love of country is strong, but there are many ar- 
guments that should be dispassionately considered. 
Before I could venture to discuss the subject I 
should take time for extensive research and calm 
deliberation." 

Several pairs of eyes were directed inquiringly to- 
ward him as he closed his remark, from which the 
family failed to gather just what his opinion was. 

Abram 's eyes had a mischievous expression, al- 
though his tones were perfectly respectful as he 
said : 

" Well, you know the presiding elder has a chance 
at us but once in three months, and he can't afford 
to be very deliberate. He has to give us his ideas 
hot and heavy." 

" Yes ; and we must remember, too, that he is 
an old antislavery man," added Mr. Steele. " I've 
heard him off and on now for a good many years, 
and I never heard him make the opening prayer 
without praying for ' our colored brother in chains.' 
Always did, years ago, when nobody else thought 
of doing it." 

As a Christian Mr. Phelps was touched by this 
testimony, but with perverse jealousy he con- 
tinued : 



A PASTORAL VISIT. 45 

" Well, if prayer and practice go together in this 
case, I will admit that he is a rare exception. 
Would he love his ' colored brother ' as well if he 
were a little nearer, think you ? " 

Mr. Steele's children had rarely seen any sign of 
excitement in their father's face ; but now they 
noticed a red flush under the coat of tan. 

" Have another biscuit, brother," said he, "and 
let me give you some more honey. Benjie, pass the 
cheese. May be you never heard how the elder 
took the place of a runaway slave once ?" 

" No, I'm a Jersey man, you know. Let us hear 
how he did it," said the minister, who had not no- 
ticed any rise in the temperature. 

" Well, there was a branch of the under-ground 
railroad not a thousand miles from here, that used 
to do a pretty lively business ; and Dyke's hotel, 
down to the Center, was one of the stopping-places. 
Mr. Putnam lived there then, and old Dr. Snow ; 
both of 'em in the business. One night a poor lost- 
lookin' fellow come to the tavern, black, but not so 
black as some, on his way to Canada. Well, Dyke 
give him a good supper and bed accordin' to in- 
struction ; and they said they would let him sleep 
till five o'clock the next morning and get him away 
before folks was stirring much. But he hadn't 
more 'n got to sleep when up rode two men all in 
a white heat after a ' runaway nigger,' as they said. 
They said they'd tracked him there, and they must 
sarch that house high and low ; and they raged 
round the bar-room swearin' like troopers. Well, 
Mr. Dyke didn't know what to do. He sent a boy 
out the back door to fetch the elder and old Dr. 



46 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

Snow, and then he laid himself out to keep them 
men in the bar-room. He got 'em to the fire, and 
mixed some toddy, and got 'em to describe the 
runaway, and bustled 'round as if he'd turn the 
house upside-down for them. You know Thomas 
Dyke out to the village ? " 

The minister bowed affirmation. 

" Well, this was his father — nervous and fussy by 
nature, and Thomas takes after him. Well, when 
he couldn't keep 'em any longer in the bar-room, 
then the lights begun to bother ; and he got all the 
girls to running over each other fetching more of 
'em ; but at last he actually took the men up-stairs. 
Then he went about routing up two or three ped- 
dlers, and soon till he was fairly obleeged to open 
that door. When he see the black head on the pil- 
low he said he was almost faint, to think nothin' 
had been done; but when he looked a little closer 
he suspected how it was, and says he, 'This must 
be your man, gentlemen, but you better let him 
sleep now you have him safe, and not make a fuss 
to-night, for I keep a quiet house.' He kept wav- 
in' 'em back and whisperin', but he said they was 
wild to get hold of him, and one of 'em drew out 
his pistol and leveled it at the bed and swore he'd 
make a hole through the rascal's head. But Dyke 
threatened he'd put 'em out if they made so much 
noise ; so after swearin' till every thing was blue 
they made him lock the door on the outside and 
give them the key, and went down to the bar- 
room, saying that after havin' supper they'd take 
turns watchin' the door till morning. Dyke said 
he hoped to be forgiven, but he got 'em both 



A PASTORAL VISIT. 47 

drunk as fools before midnight. Then, of course, 
he found out how matters stood. 

" While he was hinderin' 'em at first, the elder 
and Dr. Snow got the runaway dressed in a new 
suit and into the doctor's carriage and off on the 
road toward Canada line. 

" Then the elder, he crept into bed, and, being a 
very dark-complected man, he hoped to deceive 
the slave-catchers, just as he did." 

" How did he feel when he heard them talking 
about shooting him ? " asked the minister, so in- 
terested that he stopped eating. 

" He said he felt sorry that he forgot to kiss his 
wife and children before he left home." 

There was a moment's silence. 

" He's always been that kind of a helpful man," 
added Mr. Steele, " and I can't help thinkin' it's the 
right sperit. It's the sperit that brought the Lord 
from heaven to take our place when we was in bond- 
age, at any rate." 

" It is a beautiful, grand spirit, I am sure," said 
Mrs. Phelps, warmly ; " I shall admire Mr. Putnam 
more than ever, now I have heard this story." 

"Yes; I am sure he has shown that he can prac- 
tice as well as preach," said her husband, frankly. 

Mr. Steele nodded approvingly. 

" You get a notion, too, of the way he feels about 
the war. It isn't no political question with him, 
it's the story of the Israelites in Egypt over again. 
He sees the Lord's hand in it all ; and when he 
advocates fightin' he calculates it's in the interests 
of truth and righteousness." 

At that moment a horse was heard slowly tramp- 



48 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

ing across the chip-yard, followed by the noise of 
wheels, and looking out they saw the hero of their 
conversation in his old wagon, with a buffalo-robe 
thrown over the seat, drawn by an ancient horse 
that he valued highly because it " never interfered 
with his meditations." 

" Talk of angels and you hear their wings," 
laughed Abram, as he hurried out to the old min- 
ister's assistance. 

Mr. Phelps could but notice the loving reverence 
with which the entire family regarded this man ; 
and he himself took his hand as he entered, dimly 
suspecting that he had the honor of meeting a lineal 
descendant of "prophets, priests, and kings," and in 
consequence feeling for an instant his own inferior- 
ity. Any one who remembers " sixty-two," and 
how one great theme was always before the people, 
can understand that conversation did not lag dur- 
ing the next hour. All work was suspended, and 
Esther and Mary, with rapt faces, sat silent near 
Mrs. Phelps, wondering as they listened, to hear 
Abram talk so wisely and so well as he kindled in 
animation under the elder's magic influence. 

And in the dusky twilight the cows came lowing 
down the lane, forgotten by the enchanted boy, Ben- 
jamin, who in his quiet corner drank in the spirit of 
the times and " only wished 't he was six years older." 

And when in a matter-of-fact tone the old hero 
announced that he was " on his last round of visits," 
and should offer himself as chaplain or " any thing 
else they can make of me," there was a unanimous 
expression that there could be no place too good 
for him. And the Rev. G. Harmon Phelps felt 



A PASTORAL VISIT. 40 

that there was really something in this devotion to 
principle that would bear investigating. 

After the visitors were gone and all was again 
quiet Esther leaned from her window to enjoy the 
cool odorous wind which blew noiselessly across 
the fields ; and, recalling her experience of the 
morning, was surprised that the bitterness of her 
grief was all gone. There was still the thought of 
personal suffering, but above it sounded the key- 
note of the sentiments to which she had listened, 

" The oppressed must go free ! " 



50 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER IV. 

A STRANGE TEST. 

ABRAM rode rapidly toward the village on his 
black colt, Gypsy. It was afternoon, and he 
felt a little impatient that his duties should have 
kept him so long from the recruiting office, for, after 
a man decides to do a thing, especially if it is in the 
line of self-sacrifice, he feels impatient until the 
preliminaries are settled. But in spite of haste he 
took the roundabout road that led past Ruby's 
home, and had the pleasure of seeing her sitting 
with her sewing, half-hidden by the vines, as he 
checked Gypsy at the gate. She came down the 
garden-path, stopping to pick some clove pinks for 
his button-hole, and he noticed that her dress of blue 
lawn was charmingly becoming, while the knot of 
red, white, and blue ribbons which she wore at her 
throat he took as a subtile compliment to himself. 
Her face — but what are features described in de- 
tail? — it was a healthy, happy face, with a trick of 
changing its expression as her feelings changed. 
Ruby could look very resolute and decided, and she 
could look very tender and confiding. Her best 
friends said, " She will make a splendid woman," 
indicating that Ruby in the present tense was un- 
disciplined and somewhat wayward, but full of grand 
possibilities. Abram, however, did not look into 
the future, or speculate as to what Ruby might be 



A STRANGE TEST. 51 

in the days to come. As she looked up at him 
with a smile that betrayed two dimples he was fully 
satisfied with her present perfection. 

" I know where you are going," said she, with a 
tremor in her voice, " and now that the time has 
come I don't like it at all." 

" It does seem hard, Ruby. May be I wont go 
after all ; " and Abram laughed as one will to hide 
deeper feelings. 

" Father said if I dared say a word to discourage 
you or any one else he would shut me up in the 
closet," said Ruby. 

" O, that would be dreadful ! I must hurry along 
so you wont be tempted to discourage me, then. 
Good-bye ; " and yielding to the impatient Gypsy 
Abram galloped away. 

Ruby looked after him with her hand above her 
eyes. He seemed like a brave knight of " ye olden 
time " on his coal-black steed, and she was the 
" faire ladye " who proved her loyalty by years of 
waiting in a moated castle. One of the clove pinks 
had fallen from his hand and lay in the grass at 
her feet. She picked it up, carried it to her lips, 
and then fastened it carefully to the red, white, and 
blue ribbons at her throat. Flushing guiltily, she 
looked around to see if she were observed ; but no 
one was in sight but Hiel Sanders, her father's hired 
man, who was too near-sighted to be feared. He 
stood at the pump drinking from the tin dipper. As 
he hung it up with a satisfied grunt he remarked : 

" That wuz Abram Steele, wuzn't it? Steps like 
his black colt. Ruther went round Robin Hood's 
barn comin' this road, didn't he?" 



52 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

This remark was made rather aimlessly, partly to 
show that he knew very well why Abram came that 
way, partly because Hiel liked to be "sociable." 

Martha Thompson, who had just come to the 
kitchen window with a pan of fresh ginger-snaps in 
her hand, answered with a sharp, " S'posin' he did 
come this way? I guess he's a perfec' right to 
while he can. 'Twont be many days 'fore this 
town '11 be like a silent tomb. Every body's goin' 
to war, seems 's if, 'ceptin' you 'nd a few other old 
simpletons." 

Hiel laughed good-naturedly and snatched a 
couple of cakes from the pan. 

" Wal, Marthy, 's long ez me V Job Smith don't 
go you wont have no call to put on mournin'." 

Martha aimed the long fork she held in her hand 
at him, but he strode away still laughing, while she 
was trying to find words to express her contempt 
for Job Smith and all other " men folks." 

Meanwhile Abram rode swiftly past the " com- 
mon " and stopped at the post-office which occupied 
one side of a brick building, the other side being 
filled with "dry goods, groceries, and notions," be- 
longing to Elijah Green. 

Ira Barstow was postmaster, and, being deformed, 
he had been continued year after year until he 
seemed an essential part of the institution. 

When he saw Abram he took a letter and some 
papers from his box and handed them to him, re- 
marking as he did so that there " was quite lively 
times over to the jedge's office." 

"Yes, I think I'll go and see the judge myself," 
said Abram, smiling and nodding as he went out. 



A STRANGE TEST. 53 

Mr. Barstow followed him as far as the front win- 
dow, apparently just for the pleasure of seeing the 
strong, cheery fellow on his way to the "jedge's." 
Every nerve in his misshapen body tingled with 
patriotism, but he could only show it by encourag- 
ing others to do their duty. 

Abram was about to slip the letter in his pocket, 
but observing that, although it came from Boston, 
the superscription was not in Austin's hand, he 
tore open the envelope, and, still standing on the 
store-steps, read its contents, which were as fol- 
lows : 

"Abram Steele, Esq. — 

" Dear Sir : Having found the above address in 
the room formerly occupied by Austin Steele, and 
supposing it to be his father's, we use it at this 
time. We are under the painful necessity of in- 
forming you that your son, after being in our em- 
ploy nearly a year, has been guilty of theft, and has 
absconded with the money stolen, probably to join 
the army. It is impossible for us to ascertain our 
losses, but, considering your son's youth and the 
high recommendations which he brought, referring 
in the highest terms to yourself and family, we have 
decided to settle the matter for one thousand dol- 
lars, which amount you will please remit at your 
earliest convenience. Your obedient servants, 

" L. Webber & Co." 

If Abram had been a woman he probably would 
have fainted. As it was, he grasped the railing of 
the platform and stood for a moment waiting until 



54 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

his surroundings again assumed a natural appear- 
ance. 

The postmaster, still watching him, felt almost 
impatient that a young fellow about to "volunteer" 
should stand there " so numb like " as he afterward 
said. Poor little hunchback ! He need not have en- 
vied Abram his size or strength at that moment of 
supreme wretchedness. " He aint going near the 
recruiting office. What in Texas does that mean?" 
said he to himself when, a little later, he saw Abram 
mount Gypsy and ride away toward home. 

But Abram had no idea of going home then. 
Instead, he rode down past the mills and then on 
and on through a lonely wooded part of the town. 
For some time he was not capable of connected 
thought ; and when at length he said to himself 
that he must think, he must plan, he dared not 
admit even to himself how he felt toward his 
brother. Anger, unmeasured and unmitigated 
anger, rose in his soul; but as one shuts his lips 
tight and refuses to let unrighteous words escape, 
so one sometimes imprisons dangerous thoughts, 
shutting them away from even his own investiga- 
tions. But while Abram thus turned the key upon 
his murderous and revengeful thoughts toward his 
brother there were others which took very definite 
form ; and poor Gypsy, whose coat was wet with 
sweat, was allowed to walk while her master's 
meditations ran on. " It was lucky that letter didn't 
reach father." This was the first calming considera- 
tion, and it weighed much with Abram. " It would 
have just about killed him. And he mustn't know 
it — nor mother — nor the girls! May be there's an 



A STRANGE TEST. 55 

awful mistake, for how it could be possible — " and 
Gypsy jumped as Abram's hand came down upon 
her sensitive flesh. A long quivering breath, and 
he said aloud, as if to give it additional force, " I 
must keep this to myself! Nobody must know! 
But how can I ever raise a thousand dollars, and 
how can I enlist with this burden upon me?" 

This was the hardest point to settle. Austin 
was gone. If he went there would be no one to care 
for the parents and to raise this sum of money which 
looked so very, very large. But if Austin could be 
found and brought back, who wanted the family 
disgraced in that way? Better that he should fall 
on some battle-field and sleep in an unknown grave 
than that he should blacken the name that had so 
far been honest and honorable. 

Abram turned his horse, for there were dark 
shadows in the woods, which told that the day was 
almost done. His head felt heavy, his brain weary ; 
but one thing was clear ; he alone must bear the 
burden that had so unexpectedly fallen upon him, 
unless and until that dreadful letter could be ex- 
plained. This decision his judgment approved, 
even while he felt that in making it he was thrust- 
ing from him all that was most desirable in life. 
But there was one comforting thought. He would 
go to Ruby that night and tell her as much as he 
could of the story, and she would understand and 
sympathize with him and keep his secret until the 
mystery could be explained or buried. The clove 
pinks were still in his button-hole, and as he bent 
his head he caught their perfume, and said softly, " I 
can bear 'most any thing as long as I have Ruby." 



56 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

At that moment he heard the sound of rapidly 
approaching wheels, and the next met Esquire 
Fletcher and John Bartlett. 

They stopped, and John called out in his brisk 
way: 

" Why, Steele, where have you been all day ? 
The office has been just about full. Lots of the 
boys are going. I looked for you among the first." 

" Yes," added Mr. Fletcher, " I heard a number 
inquiring for you, and understood you were there 
at one time." 

" No," said Abram, slowly, " I haven't been in 
Judge Plumley's office to-day. I expected to be, 
but certain things came up that have changed my 
plans, and I find I can't enlist just now ; I'm sorry ; " 
and he concluded with a smile that had no mirth 
in it. 

Mr. Fletcher look puzzled, and John Bartlett 
smoothed his mustache thoughtfully. 

" Well," said the former, " I'm surprised. What 
in the world — ahem ! I hope nothing serious has 
happened ? " 

" So do I," said Bartlett, heartily. " I'm disap- 
pointed. Well, if you change your mind let me 
know right away, will you ? " 

Abram bowed and the gentlemen drove on, leav- 
ing him to ride toward home more heavily burdened 
than before. His supper was waiting for him, all 
the others having eaten at the usual time ; and 
Benjie was also waiting, full of interest and curios- 
ity. 

"Say, Abram, how does it seem to be enlisted? 
I guess you was tall enough, wasn't you ? The 



A STRANGE TEST. 57 

Hickey boys stopped a minute, but they hadn't 
happened to see you. You'd have thought they'd 
been to the county fair, they was so pleased. Did 
Don Stanley put his name down?" and Benjie 
rolled his eyes toward Esther. 

" I don't know, Benjie, whether Don enlisted to- 
day or not, for I haven't been in the recruiting 
office myself. I have concluded not to give my 
name just yet." 

Benjie gave a prolonged " Whew ! " while Mr. 
Steele laid down the Tribune and looked up inquir- 
ingly. 

" Did you say you had decided not to go? " he 
asked ; and his mother and sisters waited breath- 
lessly for his answer. 

" Yes, sir ; that was what I said, but I guess you 
all want me to go down there and get popped over 
by the rebels, you look so solemn." 

" No; we are all glad to have you here as long as 
possible, but we didn't suppose you could be hired 
to stay. What does it mean?" 

It was hard to face the anxious family, but Abram 
had made up his mind not to give them any clew at 
present to the true reason ; so he answered as un- 
concernedly as possible : 

"Well, father, I wish I could tell you all about 
it, but I can't — not yet, anyway. But don't you 
feel worried, because I'll try to make myself useful 
here on the farm." 

" Yes, but Austin could do a great deal. He'll 
think strange when you've written to him to come 
home. He is such a wide-awake, plucky fellow. I 
wouldn't a mite wonder if he got a notion to go him- 



58 THE G 1 LEAD GUARDS. 

self, for I s'pose he hears a sight of brave talk in 
such a big place as Boston." 

Abram felt actually cold with the effort he made 
to appear natural; but remarking that he didn't feel 
hungry, and that he had to be away a while, he put 
on his hat and hurried off, glad to escape further 
questioning and comment. 

His ring at Esquire Fletcher's door was answered 
by Martha Thompson, who always labored under 
the impression that she should open the door upon 
a peddler or a book agent, and had a stereotyped 
welcome for that class ; but when she saw who it 
was she added, " O, step in ! " and he entered the 
hall, asking if Miss Ruby were at home. 

" I guess so ; I'll see," said Martha, nervously, and 
she hurried into the sitting-room, leaving the door 
ajar behind her. A moment more and he heard 
Ruby's clear tones: 

" No, I wont see him. If he can change his mind 
so quick, I guess other people can change theirs." 

" Ruby ! Ruby ! " said her father. 

" But you said yourself there was no account- 
ing for it. I just wish I was a man, and I 
would — " 

Abram did not wait to hear what she would do, 
but, turning, he went rapidly and silently down the 
stone steps into the darkness of desolation. Not 
that it was really dark, for the moon was just ris- 
ing and a flood of clear light filled the world with 
beauty, but Abram, rushing along with set teeth 
and clinched hands, was not in a mood to notice 
it. The experience of the afternoon had seemed all 
he could bear ; but that trouble was like a burden 



A STRANGE TEST. 59 

upon the shoulders compared with this which 
pierced his heart. 

Abram had never formulated his views even to 
himself, but he had, nevertheless, a modest idea 
that he was ready to face " the world, the flesh, and 
the devil," ^nd rout them without the least diffi- 
culty ; but he had never imagined such an attack 
as this. It struck him on all sides — his ambition, 
reputation, honor, hope, love. He felt as if he 
had been shaken and stripped of them all and 
dropped by the way-side ! 

And at such times there is always a tempting 
spirit near laden with suggestions, even as, many, 
many years ago, Satan himself came to tempt One 
who was alone in the wilderness. To walk on and 
on, and put miles between himself and the old 
home before morning, to enlist and go with the 
company and leave his father to find out about 
Austin at his leisure, to jump into the river which 
gurgled near between banks darkly outlined by 
masses of alders — all these temptations, and many 
another vaguely desperate scheme, came and seemed 
for the moment like open doors offering him a 
chance to escape. 

If he had been a loosely constructed, unbelieving 
modern theorist he would probably have yielded to 
one or another, for he was carried quite beyond 
himself by forces he could not understand ; but the 
man who has really learned to obey law and believe 
in its righteousness hears a " Thus far and no far- 
ther " above all other voices. Any one who has 
followed in summer-time the course of a river has 
noticed once and again high bridges, supported by 



60 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

massive buttresses, spannirg a chasm through which, 
far down among the shadows, glided an insignifi- 
cant stream. To a careless observer stone and iron 
at such a height seem quite superfluous ; but when 
in early spring a thousand torrents rush into the 
chasm and the river rises foaming to its highest 
shore, threatening to overleap all barriers and sweep 
away property and life, then is seen the wisdom of 
solid walls of masonry, of buttress, beam, and iron 
bolt. Men understand the possibilities of a decep- 
tive little river and guard against their harmful 
tendencies. God understands the possibilities of 
the most quiet and undemonstrative life, of all lives, 
in fact, and arches his laws strong and high above 
them — laws which look quite superfluous until they 
are needed, but which always prove sufficiently 
strong to guard and restrain, unless willful rebellion 
or insanity carries one beyond all restraints. Abram 
did not think of these things until long after that 
night. He simply felt then as though he were 
being held, and he said, too, that a quaint couplet 
learned years before from an old almanac recurred 
to his mind with persistent force : 

" When all the blandishments of life are gone 
The coward sneaks to death, the brave live on." 

It was later — after he had walked miles, after the 
last twinkling light in solitary farm-houses had dis- 
appeared, after he had turned his face toward home 
determined to " bear all things and endure all 
things" — that he received the reward of obedience. 
His training in religious matters had certainly been 
deficient, for, although he was a church member 



A STRANGE TEST. 61 

and quoted as an example of integrity and positive 
goodness, he had never learned to think of his 
Elder Brother as a personal friend. So now, while 
he had yielded to law, his heart was still empty and 
cold and sorely wounded, and he felt himself pecul- 
iarly alone. But as he walked along the silent 
country road, so silent that the murmurings in the 
trees seemed but the breathing of nature's tiny 
children asleep in nests and mossy hollows, he 
turned half around with a feeling that some one 
was near. There was no visible presence, but the 
strong impression still remained and increased until 
he felt that beside him was a Friend who understood 
all his trials, who sympathized with him per- 
fectly, and imparted a strength that came from no 
" arm of flesh ; " and his heart, now filled with 
wonder and gratitude, recognized in that sweet un- 
expected companionship the blessed presence of a 
divine Comrade. He bowed his head and sank 
upon his knees, accepting as never before his Lord 
and Master, and realizing that whatever his future 
might be he had a Friend who would be to him 
more than a brother. He went to his rest that 
night with this new-found confidence ; and never 
afterward could he forget how over the strong cold 
heights of law came love, with blessings unmeas- 
ured, making the path of duty bright with His 
sacred footsteps. 



62 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER V. 

A PECULIAR ANGEL. 

WITH bird twitterings and cock-crowings and 
slow unfolding of cloud curtains the next 
morning dawned. In a leisurely way the sun crept 
up over the eastern hills, as if to give time for yawn- 
ing and a backward glance into dreamland before 
it sent its direct beams into upper windows. Then 
smoke began to curl from chimney-tops, and here 
and there sleepy boys made their way to the yards 
where cows still lay ruminating. The cock-crowing 
continued until the sun was fairly " up ;" for chanti- 
cleer, like some more enlightened bipeds, labors un- 
der the hallucination that his crowing in some way 
sets the machinery of the world in motion, and hence 
he spares neither breath nor voice until he has 
brought the great luminary above the horizon. This 
duty done, he was ready to descend to a fierce con- 
test over corn and crumbs, his greedy clamoring 
scarcely surpassed by the pigs, whose starving con- 
dition was indicated by uncompromising grunts and 
squeals, checked only by generous pails of bonny- 
clabber and meal-mush. The lowing cows were 
finally released to find their way to green hill past- 
ures, while brimming pails of milk were carried to 
cool clean dairies or " set " for cheese. The horses 
were watered and given their allowance of oats, and 



A PECULIAR ANGEL. 63 

then, when all the " chores " were done, the farmers 
themselves were ready to breakfast. 

At Mr. Steele's table that morning there was a 
visible restraint. Benjie in a cajoling tone had 
begged Abram to tell him " what the matter was " 
an hour before, and, not receiving any satisfactory 
answer, was in a decidedly sullen mood, and the en- 
tire family were sober and anxious. Abram rather 
hoped some question would be asked that would 
give him an opportunity to repeat what he had said 
the night before in a different way ; for he felt as 
if he was suspected of some plot, or at least of 
insincerity. He did not have the true idea, how- 
ever, as he soon discovered ; for before he could leave 
the house his mother asked him to step into the parlor 
a moment, and when they were alone in the dark 
room and the door closed she turned toward him 
pleadingly. 

" Now, Abram," said she, " tell me just what the 
trouble is. Is it your heart ? Your Uncle Abram 
died of heart disease, but I never thought it would 
follow the family. And there was your Grand- 
mother Austin, she died of old-fashioned consump- 
tion. Is it your lungs, Abram ? Tell me the worst, 
and we will see what can be done." 

Abram began to laugh ; but as he realized how 
his faithful, loving mother must be suffering, his eyes 
filled and he put his hand tenderly upon her shoul- 
der. 

" My lungs and heart are all right, mother, I firmly 
believe," said he. "And more than that, I haven't 
done any thing disgraceful ; but something has hap- 
pened to a friend of mine that will prevent my plans 



64 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

being carried out. Now, if you will trust me and 
keep still, mother, it will be worth every thing to me 
just now." 

Of course she promised, and sealed it with a kiss ; 
but also of course, she was not really satisfied. She 
warned the children, however, to ask no questions, 
for their brother was all right, and she was only too 
thankful he could make up his mind to stay 
at home. 

All this did not satisfy Benjie, and he grew furious 
over this first family mystery. 

" I declare ! " said he, pacing back and forth, 
his cheeks red, his eyes wet, " I didn't s'pose any 
of our folks would show the white feather. Might 
as well be a skedaddler and done with it. Might as 
well be a copperhead. Guess you wouldn't catch 
me backin' out. Keep the war goin' a few years 
longer, sir, and you'll see a feller go out of this house 
that aint afraid of gunpowder." 

" O, now, Benjie," expostulated Esther, "you 
can talk, but you don't know how it might seem 
when the time come. I think whatever keeps 
Abram at home is something that makes him feel 
bad enough." 

" Feel bad enough ! " cried Benjie, wrathfully, 
" he better feel bad. He's disgraced me. I'll have 
to dodge the boys for fear they'll ask questions, and 
I just can't bear it ; " and the poor boy strode away 
pulling his hat over his eyes and kicking every 
thing that happened to be in his wa)'. 

Meanwhile Abram was in his room trying to 
think how he could secure the money to send the 
avenger, " L. Webber & Co." 



A PECULIAR ANGEL. 65 

No one unfamiliar with farming communities can 
readily understand how large this sum appeared. 
People are comfortable, even opulent, with their 
farms paid for and the ready money that comes 
from harvest sales ; and when in the course of years 
their surplus funds accumulate in a bank they are 
not in the habit of withdrawing them without very 
good reasons for doing so. To lend a thousand 
dollars without ample security would indicate that 
a man was in his dotage. Abram had two or three 
uncles who were "forehanded" living within a ra- 
dius of ten miles ; but as he thought of them indi- 
vidually and collectively he shook his head. The 
inquisitional process through which a person must 
pass before he got money of Uncle Rufus or Uncle 
Ira or Uncle Mont was enough to make him pre- 
fer a place of torture nearer home. He had good 
friends at the village, but most of them whom he 
could trust were young men like Dr. Adams, Judson 
Plumley, and Lawyer Parker, who had not reached 
that period in life when they could put as many 
ciphers after a unit as this case demanded. At last, 
after taking the financial census of Gilead, he hap- 
pened to think of Miss Hancock, and with a feel- 
ing of relief decided to go to her for at least a part 
of the needed amount, To be sure, she was a 
woman, and Abram had heard the old tradition 
that a woman could not be trusted with a secret ; 
but he argued that as she was in most respects su- 
perior to her sex so she must be in this ; and he 
was soon on Gypsy's back riding toward her little 
home. To his great disappointment the curtains 

were drawn and the door was locked. The minis- 
5 



66 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

ter's wife saw Abrarn, and leaned out of her window 
to tell him that Miss Hancock had gone to see a 
sick person, and would probably be away several 
days. Riding slowly homeward, quite perplexed, 
in spite of the peace which he still retained in his 
heart, he reached the outer edge of Esquire Fletch- 
er's farm, where the orchard was, and heard the 
musical ring of a whetted scythe. A sudden thought 
inspired him, and, jumping off his horse, he fastened 
her to a tree, leaped over the fence, and made his 
way toward Hiel Saunders, who, he very well knew, 
was preparing to mow the orchard. 

" Good-morning, Hiel ; how do you do ? " said he, 
as he reached the spot where that worthy stood 
gazing meditatively up into an apple-tree, while his 
whetstone with a merry "ching! clang! ching ! " 
played mechanically up and down the sharp-edged 
scythe. 

" O, mornin' ! " answered Hiel, observing his vis- 
itor ; " I'm so's to be crawlin', thank ye. How be 
yeou ? Hot day to work in the sun, but jest right 
here, shady and cool's a cowcumber. I was jest 
watchin' them little birds up in the tree, 'n' thinkin' 
how odd it seems to mow with a scythe after using 
a machine. I do' know how we ever got along 
without 'em, I'm sure. But the machines makes it 
easier to spare the boys that's goin' to war. One 
man c'n du what six use' ter. That's right, set 
deown. Stuns aint quite so easy as sofies, but 
they'll du." j Hiel hung his scythe upon a limb of 
the apple-tree and seated himself on a rock con- 
veniently near Abram. " Seems to me I hearn the 
squire sayin' you'd about give up 'listin' ; " and Hiel 



A PECULIAR ANGEL. 67 

plucked a long grass spear and measured it with 
his outstretched hand as innocently as though he 
and Martha Thompson had not discussed the whole 
matter pro and con the previous evening. 

"Yes," said Abram, "and that is just what I 
want to talk about, Hiel; " and Abram looked with 
anxious eyes into his homely, honest face. "' Have 
you money that you're not using that you would be 
willing to lend?" 

" Wal, I've got quite a little money saved up;" 
and Hiel chewed the juicy stalk and looked into 
the grass at his feet, wondering what was coming 
next. 

" And if I tell you why I can't enlist and why I 
need money will you keep my secret ? " 

" I reckon. Fire away ! " and Hiel leaned back in 
a listening attitude. And then Abram told the whole 
story, only he could not bear to say that the money 
had been stolen. It was a debt that Austin had in- 
curred and left when he ran away to enlist. " And 
now, Hiel," said he, appealingly, " if you can lend 
me the money to pay that debt you know you will 
get it again with interest if I live. I can't give you 
security on the farm, for I own only an undivided 
share, but as soon as I get a good offer for Gypsy I 
can sell her, and some of the other stock is mine. 
I think my Cotswold sheep would bring a big price 
by and by, but just now I could only give my 
note." 

Hiel had wiped his eyes several times while 
Abram was talking, and after giving them a final 
polish on his shirt-sleeve he straightened himself 
and drew a long breath. 



68 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

" Keep yer critters, Abram ; I don't want no se- 
curity, 'nd I don't care nothin' about yer note. Do 
as ye please about that. I'll let ye have the money 
'cause ye need it. I did hev' a notion to spec'late 
with about that much. Brown, son-in-law of Slo- 
cum, over there by your place, says there's goin' to 
be lots of money in the wool business ; so many 
soldier-clothes and army blankets, you know. But 
may be I'd lose it all. 'T any rate I ruther you'd 
hev' it, 'nd I hope tu gracious it '11 settle up the 
business thet's plaguin' of ye." 

Abram was so full of gratitude that he could 
hardly find voice to express it. 

" I shall have a feeling that this is sacred money, 
Hiel. It seems to me it has come right down from 
heaven by the hands of an angel." 

Hiel's big mouth drew up at the corners until it 
resembled a half moon, while his eyes twinkled 
through reefs of wrinkles. 

"A ruther pe-cn-liar angel," he drawled, wonder- 
fully pleased, however, with the compliment. 
" Guess likely you're thinkin' of them riggers on 
old grave-stones. Ever see any ? I used to see 
lots of 'em down to Sandown. That's an awful old 
teown, 'n' these dark-colored stuns 's all over the 
grave-yard. And them Aggers has wings hitched 
on to 'em, but their faces aint like pictur'-angels, 
not by no means. I hearn two young fellows dis- 
putin' one day about it. They was chock full of 
learnin', 'n' used lots of big words, but the upshot of 
it wuz, one of 'em thought the figger wuz an angel, 
'nd t'other thought 'twas one of them things that 
flies up from t'other place, a-representin' death 'n' 



A PECULIAR ANGEL. 69 

the terrors of the tomb. I says to 'em, says I, 
' You can't decide that ; but I tell ye what I think 
of the man that made the things. He no business 
to leave such a doubtful figger. An angel orter 
look better 'n that, 'n' t'other kind worse. But 
moreover,' says I, ' it makes me think of some folks 
I've seen. These wipsy-wopsy people that you 
can't tell whuther they're good or whuther they're 
bad. They leave a puzzle for comin' generations to 
work over.' Says I, ' Let's see tu it that we don't 
make folks wonder whuther we're angels or figgers 
from t'other places.' " 

" Why, Hiel," said Abram, laughing in spite of 
himself, " I never knew you were an exhorter before, 
but you certainly told them the truth." 

" I'm no exhorter, Abram, 'n' squire's wife thinks 
I orter go to meetin' more, 'n' jine the church, 'n' 
I s'pose I had ; but you see I hearn one of them 
young fellers swear a profane oath, 'nd when things 
come to thet pass I'm on the side of Him that writ 
the third commandment. Yes, sir! I hate to see 
young fellers thet's had advantages piled mountain 
high, as ye might say, spilin' themselves for this 
world 'n' the one tu come. Yes, I du." 

Abram rose, thinking that Hiel might be hin- 
dered by his long call, and made one more effort to 
express his gratitude. " I must ride on now, or 
you wont get the orchard mowed to-day. I don't 
know how to thank you,* but I shall never, never 
forget your kindness to me." 

" Wal, never's a long word, but I aint afraid. I 
always thought an awful sight of yeou, 'nd I'm glad 
to du you a favor. I'll be tu the bank at six o'clock ; 



70 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

no, half past three, aint it ? Likely yeou want that 
filthy lucre soon 's convenient ; " and Hiel took 
down his scythe and passed his finger along the 
shining blade. 

"Yes," said Abram, " I'll be there ; " and he hur- 
ried away through the trees. 

After his departure Hiel stood looking after him 
with an expression of real concern. 

" Wal, neovv," he mused, " what's the dictionary 
meanin' of this? There's a figger fer a brigadier- 
gineral, and as good a boy as wuz ever raised in 
Gilead ; 'n' neow he's got tu give up all his plans, 
'n' saddle this big debt, 'n' be throwed over by his 
girl. Ruby don't know nothin' or she'd never be- 
lieve he's a coward. Women is fools anyway — 
most of 'em." 

This possible exception was added after an in- 
stant's thought, for Hiel desired above all things to 
be just. 

" I'd like to wallop that young Austin. No busi- 
ness tu get in debt 'n' make Abram all this trouble. 
I'm glad I got money tu lend. I don't care if I 
could get ten per cent, in wool spec'lation. I guess 
I've a right to help a feller thet's in trouble ! " 

This last was spoken rather fiercely, as if some 
imp of evil had suggested the loss of that fabulous 
percentage ; and Hiel vigorously attacked the rasp- 
berry shoots and Canada thistles which grew rankly 
among the stones. 

Hiel Saunders would have delighted the soul of 
an artist in search of a traditional Yankee or of a 
litterateur anxious to preserve a dialect indigenous 
to and originating in New England soil, which 



A PECULIAR ANGEL. 71 

has had few interpreters, and is rapidly disap- 
pearing. 

He was lean and wiry, his face wore a shrewd, 
good-natured, interrogatory expression, his hair was 
light-colored and " stubbly," his pantaloons and 
coat-sleeves were invariably too short, and his 
vocabulary was in a loose, chaotic state to which his 
nasal twang was nicely adapted. In his every-day 
garb he was comparatively at ease, and " conversa- 
tion " was a delightful pastime. Indeed, Martha 
Thompson said there was " no end to his gab." 
But in his best clothes he was wretched ; and great 
indeed must be the social obligations which should 
force him into them. Under such circumstances 
he became conversationally bankrupt, and speech 
clung and tripped on familiar words like a plow in 
a pasture where old snags and roots impede its 
progress. 

And yet Hiel, in spite of his peculiarities, was 
very sensitive regarding literary and pictorial repre- 
sentations of the Yankees, and had he been told 
that he resembled one of those creations of fancy 
he would have felt afflicted. 

" Neow tu think," said he to Martha Thompson, 
as he leaned over a copy of Harper s Weekly, which 
had upon its last page an artistic " Uncle Sam," 
" that picture-man tries to make folks b'lieve 
Northerners look like that scalawag. It makes 
me hoppin' mad, an' I'd like tu tell him he's a 
perfick sap-head." 

Martha eyed Hiel a moment, and said in her 
crisp way, 

"You better do it, Hiel; I think he'd be amused." 



72 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

But while there was a resemblance that even 
Martha noticed, one's ideas of a Yankee character 
ought not to be derived wholly from such pictures, 
nor from the eccentric dialect as given by ordinary 
authors. Under all the contractions and elisions 
and strange constructions there is often a surprising 
amount of general intelligence ; and when words 
are spoken with earnestness one learns to look at 
their tattered condition with a certain charity. 

So our friend Hiel, who stands out against the 
horizon of the past, already referred to as particu- 
larly " odd," was, nevertheless, much respected in 
Gilead, which had its complement of other oddities 
and quite as much localism as was good for it. 

When Hiel strode over to the bank at the ap- 
pointed time, clad in his blue " frock " and sheep's- 
gray pantaloons, which did not by any means trail 
in the dust, and called for a thousand dollars of his 
invested funds, the cashier, Mr. Akers, was very 
deferential, and, as he knew Hiel was about to in- 
vest in wool, he made no remarks, only to wish him 
" many returns of the same ; " and Hiel winked at 
Abram as though it were a good joke. 

" I pulled the wool over his eyes," said he, as 
soon as they were fairly outside. 

Abram took his letter, written as if he were 
Austin's father, with the check inclosed, to the 
Center, that it might not pass under the close 
scrutiny of the village postmaster. Just before 
leaving Hiel he said to him : 

" If you ever need a friend I'm yours, soul and 
body, because of what you have done for me to- 
day." 



A PECULIAR ANGEL. 73 

And Hiel went back to his work snapping his 
fingers and smiling like a millionaire who has just 
endowed a college. No, not like ; for the million- 
aire knows that his beneficence will be heralded far 
and wide, while Hiel was only half conscious that 
he had slain the love of gain, mowed it down, so to 
speak, and wholly conscious that he had served a 
friend. 

" Jewhitiker!" said he, as he spat upon his hands 
and seized his scythe, 4< didn't I pull the wool over 
the cashier's eyes ? " 



THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER VI. 

SUNDAY NOON. 

MARTHA THOMPSON hired a " sitting" in 
Miss Hancock's pew, and on the Sabbath 
following the events just narrated she sat as usual 
in her accustomed place, very erect and very quiet, 
evidently listening attentively to the sermon. But 
Miss Hancock was aware, through some marvelous 
intuition which almost constituted her a " mind- 
reader," that Martha was troubled about something, 
and was not following the minister's eloquent de- 
scription of Belshazzar's feast. 

And she fully sympathized with Martha's way- 
ward thoughts, although her lack of devout attention 
was caused by the minister himself. Miss Hancock 
was one of those unreasonable women who have 
existed in all ages, who sometimes forget the lim- 
itations of sex and long to do what evidently ought 
to be done by somebody. So this bright Sabbath 
morning she was wishing she could remand J. Har- 
mon Phelps and Belshazzar to some other clime, 
and stand there herself and talk to the dear boys 
who were so soon to leave their home and church 
influences perhaps forever. There was so much 
practical wisdom in God's great store-house, so 
much sweetness and consolation, so many strong, 
encouraging words just adapted to present circum- 



SUNDA Y NOON. 75 

stances, that it seemed a pity to waste time over the 
decorations of a heathen palace. Miss Hancock 
found herself in the midst of a fervent imaginary 
discourse which brought a bright color to her cheeks 
and tears to her eyes when the closing " amen " 
sounded from the pulpit ; and she came to herself 
with a start, thankful that her neighbors had no 
suspicion that she had been so moved and edified 
by her own " prophesyings." Under these circum- 
stances she was not surprised when Martha whis- 
pered to her, behind her palm-leaf fan, that if it 
was agreeable she would walk home with her after 
Sabbath-school. So, after Miss Hancock had taught 
her class of young men, throwing into the lesson 
all the pent-up enthusiasm of the morning, and 
Martha had faithfully followed the lesson as taught 
by the minister in the Bible-class, the two women 
walked sedately down the street to the little white 
house next door to the parsonage. Martha Thomp- 
son was one of those rare New England "girls" 
who " lived out," laid up money, accumulated wis-^ 
dom, cherished her independence, and enjoyed the 
respect and friendship of those who knew her best. 
That this number of friends was not larger was due to 
the fact that Martha measured people with a jealous 
eye. That church member who looked down upon 
her because she did the work in Esquire Fletcher's 
kitchen found her as rigid as a marble statue when, 
on some social occasion, it became convenient to 
approach her in a familiar way. Not that Martha 
was tart or saucy — she was simply unapproachable. 
But those who recognized her worth when she 
was flying around in her scant, plain, every-day 



76 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

" gownds," as she called her work-dresses, found her 
gracious and ready to assist any good cause. This 
angularity of disposition gave Martha a certain ad- 
vantage, intrenching her, so to speak, in her own 
garrison, which she took care to keep well provis- 
ioned. Mrs. Fletcher understood her handmaiden 
so well that there was seldom any friction between 
them. Ruby, too, had learned her " limitations," 
and found it wise to consult Martha before interfer- 
ing in any way with the domestic system which 
revolved around her. Hiel Saunders was less sub- 
missive, but even he had learned new lessons in 
caution whenever he had failed to fill the wood-box 
or ventured upon her clean kitchen floor with 
muddy boots. Hiel was one of her crosses, but 
he consoled her by declaring that without him she 
would forget how to exercise moral suasion. Her 
very attitude, as she stood upon the door-steps and 
pointed out a loosened clapboard on Miss Han- 
cock's little cottage, proclaimed her practical turn 
of mind. 

" You better have that nailed right on," said she, 
tapping it with her parasol. " I would, fer one of 
these nights there'll come a high wind and that'll go 
1 flap, flap, flap,' and you can't sleep a wink." 

" I hadn't noticed it. Yes, I must have it fixed," 
assented Miss Hancock, as she ushered Martha into 
her cozy sitting-room. " Now, take off your bonnet 
and rest your head," said she, adding, as she re- 
ceived it, " Your straw whitened beautifully, Mar- 
tha. It looks like a new bonnet ; and as for your 
shawl, I must say it's a beauty." 

The owner of the new " cashmere " looked well 



SUNDA Y NOON. 77 

pleased, and remarked, as she carefully folded it in 
its original creases : 

"Yes, I think so. I did think of gettin' a stella 
shawl. They're thinner and more suited to warm 
weather ; but squire's wife said it wouldn't always be 
good like a cashmere. I have to work too hard for 
my money to throw it away when I do get it, and 
they say some of the Stellas fade in the sun." 

"They do," assented Miss Hancock. "My 
cousin in Boston bought a nice green stella last 
summer, and it faded so she had it colored black and 
gave it to her mother; but when people can't afford 
to give away things they don't like, why, they must 
buy the best in the first place." 

By this time Martha had spread her handkerchief 
over her lap and produced a little package of cara- 
way cookies and cheese, her usual Sunday lunch, 
and a little later Miss Hancock seated herself in a 
neighboring rocking-chair with a small bowl of 
cracker and milk. Then, as she expected, Martha 
revealed her errand. 

" You know, I s'pose, that our Ruby's turned 
Abram Steele off because he didn't 'list." 

" I heard so, but you can't believe rumors always, 
and I hadn't thought of it again," said Miss Han- 
cock. 

" Well, it's true, and Ruby's such a little goose 
she wont budge an inch. She's clear Fletcher — 
just as set in her way as her father is ; but notwith- 
standing she can't deceive me. She don't have no 
appetite, and she keeps sitliing every five minutes." 

Here Martha's feelings threatened to interfere 
with her speech, and she paused to shake her head — 



78 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

a little gesture with which she always reproved any 
"softness," and then resumed. 

" I think a good deal of Abram, 'nd he's no 
coward, I tell you. Hiel says he's all right, 'nd 
while Hiel aint so bright as some he's ready to stake 
his life on that. Ruby's pretty high-strung, 'nd of 
course she thought strange that Abram should back 
out after they was engaged, when he was so eager 
to go. But I says to her, ' Now, Ruby, give him a 
chance to explain. You may be sure he's got a good 
reason.' But no ; she just stamped her foot down 
and threw up her head, and off she went. So that's 
the way we're livin' to the squire's, 'nd I do wish 
you'd come in and see if you can't help straighten 
things out. They all think a sight of your judg- 
ment." 

Miss Hancock had listened very attentively while 
Martha was speaking, just as she always listened 
when people told her their troubles ; and after a 
moment's silence she said : 

" I'm sorry for Ruby. I'm sorry for Abram too ; 
but, Martha, what could have changed his mind so 
suddenly? If it had been any other — why, Martha, 
I have had Abram Steele in my class ever since he 
was a little boy, and I never knew him to do a wrong 
act. Not one ! and it wasn't because he didn't 
know how to, but he always seemed to choose to do 
right ; and I have felt so tried with him since this 
— well, fickleness, I have called it — that I was al- 
most glad to hear the gossip about Ruby's rejecting 
him. But I can't bring myself to blame him as the 
men do, and I think there must be some reason 
back of it all if we could know the truth. Mean- 



SUNDA Y NOON. 79 

while I'll drop in some day soon and see if I can 
help any. Ruby's never had much discipline, and 
she needs it — we all need it ; " and Miss Hancock 
rocked gently back and forth, evidently recalling 
her own pupilage under that impartial Master who 
gives what we need, not always what we want. 

" I s'pose we do," said Martha, grimly, " 'nd I 
b'lieve in taking what's sent: but lots of our troub- 
le's home-made, after all." 

" That is true," said Miss Hancock, cheerily, 
" and I guess I've manufactured a little in this case. 
But you see I love Abram so well that I can't bear 
to have him even suspected of any thing that isn't 
just right, and the rest of the boys are feeling bitter 
toward him and coming to me to talk about it, and 
yet he doesn't say one word. I confess I have felt 
hurt; but probably he will explain it all very soon. 
You see, Martha, just how selfish I am. But there's 
another reason. I'm getting so wrought up over 
this war that I can't understand how any man can 
stay at home. My heart is so full of it that some 
nights it seems as if it would surely break when I 
think of the awful sin that brought it on and the 
woe that comes with it. I didn't feel so at first, but 
it has grown upon me till some nights I can't sleep 
for thinking of battle-fields and wounded soldiers 
and hospitals, with scores and hundreds of sick ones 
lying there with none of their friends to take care of 
them. And then I think of the widows and orphans 
until I groan in spirit and beg the Lord to let me 
do something to hasten the end." 

Martha listened with a sort of awe, her eyes fixed 
upon Miss Hancock's slender fingers, which were 



80 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

twisted tightly together as if to help repress the 
emotion that her words but feebly embodied. 

"Well, now," said she, perfectly aware that she 
had no language to express what she really wished 
she could, " I didn't s'pose you ever got low-spirited 
like that over any thing. You never seem given up 
to doubts and glooms like most folks." 

The spell was broken, and Miss Hancock's hands 
folded themselves softly together. 

" Never in the day-time when I'm needed, and 
never about my own affairs. I just count myself 
among God's little sparrows, and take it for granted 
that I'll always have my twig to hold on to. But 
this is different. It isn't my affairs at all, but it is 
my country." 

" I guess likely you'll yet go for a nurse," said 
Martha, half questioningly. 

" Possibly, but I've no special leading so far. 
There'll be work enough to do every-where, I guess, 
before we see the last of it, and I hope I shall be 
ready to do my part. It's time for me to think of 
that, too ; for I was terribly troubled all sermon- 
time because our minister wasn't doing his part 
according to my ideas. I can say to you, Martha, 
that I do wish he would come down from his lad- 
der and talk sense to the boys." 

" Come down from his ladder?" repeated Martha, 
who was never figurative. 

"Yes, ladder, or stilts, or whatever it is that lifts 
him so far above common folks." Miss Hancock's 
eyes twinkled, and she added, with bated breath, 
" I can't think of any thing but a man in corsets 
when I hear him preach." 



SUNDA Y NOON. 81 

" 0-o-oh ! " cried Martha, throwing up her hands. 
" Nobody but a born fool would wear one of them 
abominable things, man or woman." 

" Not actual corsets, of course," laughed Miss 
Hancock, "but spiritual ones, binding and cramp- 
ing his very soul. I felt this morning how I'd like 
to snap the whalebones and cut the strings just 
once." 

This bold figure of speech traveled through 
Martha's brain, and was recognized as embodying a 
vague idea that she had had ; and an appreciative 
smile expanded her lips and gathered in wrinkles all 
around her eyes, by which time Miss Hancock had 
repented her rashness and added in contrite tones, 
" But I ought not to indulge in such unprofitable 
talk. The Lord can loose the bonds of his serv- 
ant in his own good time ; and there's the first bell 
ringing this minute." 

But a Sunday "noonin' " may hold many events 
of interest besides the conversation of two simple- 
hearted women ; and the little groups gathered in 
and around the church made up of those who 
remained between Sunday-school and " afternoon 
preaching" were all making the most of the hour. 
One topic, with many variations, absorbed all classes 
in those days, and the air was filled with murmur- 
ous bits of conversation relating to those who had 
gone or were going to war, or, sometimes sadder 
still, those who would remain at home. 

Esther Steele happened to be the sole occupant 

of the gallery, and she sat at the melodeon playing 

with timid, quiet touch tunes with which she was 

familiar. She was not a daring musician, like Abram, 





82 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

who, though self-taught, could fill the old church 
with all the music the instrument was capable of, 
and could improvise voluntaries that were the 
pride of the congregation. The instrument had 
been bought for a " seraphine," and the choir had 
taken pride in the name, until poor old Grandma'am 
Pike spoiled it by saying that " Abram Steele could 
make music on their new ' seraphim ' that was most 
heavenly." 

The young people of the other church did not 
fail to take advantage of the old lady's blunder, and 
as a result it had been nothing but a melodeon ever 
since. But it was much larger than that in Mr. 
Steele's parlor, and so was a delight to Esther's 
music-loving soul. She was playing a quaint old 
"fugue" tune, which was a fitting accompaniment 
to her own thoughts, when she became aware that 
she was not alone, and, looking around, saw Donald 
Stanley. Her heart immediately began to beat a 
wild tattoo, for she instinctively felt that he had 
planned to see her alone. Ought she to go or to 
stay? While her tender conscience was debating 
this question, with the weight of argument in favor 
of instant flight, he seated himself near her, and 
she persuaded herself that she could not pass him 
without actual rudeness. There was no more prac- 
ticing of old tunes; and if two or three old ladies 
who had gathered in the minister's pew, because 
it boasted the luxury of a cushion, missed the 
music and glanced up questioningly, let us trust 
that some pure and sweet memory of their own 
youth returned to remind them that there was 
other music quite as entrancing as that of a melo- 



SUNDA V NOON. S3 

deon. If at this point sentimental readers antici- 
pate a touching love episode they are doomed to 
disappointment. Indeed, such scenes as are de- 
scribed by those who make it a business would be 
altogether too intense to suit the quiet of a coun- 
try church. Our friend Esther was an honest 
little Puritan, and, greatly as she admired Don 
Stanley, she had no idea of revealing the fact. So 
she sat primly erect, and felt quite enraged because 
the blood crept into her cheeks and her heart 
kept up such a ridiculous thumping. But they 
began to talk about the new company, touching 
very lightly on Abram's inexplicable conduct, for 
that subject was painful to both. Then Don spoke 
tenderly of his mother and begged Esther to see 
her as often as possible, for his mother loved her 
dearly ! 

And Esther laughed nervously at this and said 
she didn't see why — she had never done any thing 
for Mrs. Stanley. Then the young man asked 
another favor for himself, which was that she would 
write to him while he was away. 

He had his penknife, and, as he talked, was cutting 
his initials in fine shapely letters on the back of the 
time-worn seat, where were the names of many other 
singers who had sometime made melody in the 
old gallery. Esther heard the request perfectly, 
and held her under-lip with her white front teeth 
for an instant, and so hard that the impression was 
there a moment afterward ; but she did not reply. 
Instead, she said that she hoped army life would 
agree with him, and that he wouldn't get wounded. 
He repeated his question — would she write to him ? 



84 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

"O, I can't write good letters. You would get 
more news from the Standard. I'll send you that," 
said she, gazing steadfastly at the initials and feel- 
ing as though she had shut the gates of bliss against 
herself. 

He looked at her an instant and half smiled to see 
her poorly assumed indifference. " I expect to 
have the paper anyway. King wants me to cor- 
respond. But I want you to write to me. May be 
you think that is a favor I shall ask of other young 
ladies, but it is not. I shall prize your letters — 
more than I can tell ; and when I come home — 
sometime — " 

" When you come home you'll give them all 
back, wont you ? " interrupted Esther, while the 
gates of bliss swung wide open. 

"Then you will write? " and the persistent fel- 
low laughed at her confusion. And then quite un- 
expectedly their eyes met, and at the same instant 
the " first bell " began to ring. 

By the time the other singers had ascended the 
narrow stairs Don and Esther were in their re- 
spective places diligently studying their hymn- 
books. The bell rang, and after a brief silence rang 
again a few sharp admonitory strokes, the last of 
which resounded and echoed and kept the rope 
swinging until Job Renfrew, the sexton, had hob- 
bled half-way to his seat. The hot afternoon sun 
struck through the unshaded west windows, and the 
singers settled themselves, after the opening exer- 
cises, as far as possible from its direct rays ; and 
this gave Esther an opportunity to secure for her- 
self a corner where she could hide her face. She 



SUN DA Y NOON. S5 

was so intensely self-conscious that it seemed as 
though every body was looking at her blushing 
cheeks and reading the very thoughts which whirled 
through her brain. She had to assure herself 
over and over again that " he " had not said any 
thing, and that she had been equally prudent, before 
she ventured to raise her eyes. It was very singu- 
lar that the utterance of mere commonplaces such 
as Esther persuaded herself had been the sum and 
substance of their conversation should have had 
such an effect. But if one finds the road which 
leads back to paradise it matters little how the 
gate is opened. It was enough for her to know, 
with or without the agency of speech, that Don 
Stanley valued her friendship and looked forward to 
a "sometime." Of course with all this new hap- 
piness came the thought of his speedy departure. 

The " rough beard of war " was arousing many a 
slumbering princess ; but with the waking came not 
only the thrill of new life, but the bitterness of sep- 
aration and the shadow of bereavement. And yet 
there would be letters, and, by and by, a glad home- 
coming. But how would her mother relish such a 
correspondence ? 

Esther's conscientious heart quailed before this 
thought, for Mrs. Steele did not like Don. His 
very name was an offense to her conservative ears, 
having a savor of romance. 

" It sounds to me like a borrowed name," said she, 
" and you may depend upon it there's something 
wrong." 

Then again, his free and easy elegance, so differ- 
ent from the good wholesome awkwardness and 



86 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

diffidence of most country-bred young men, aroused 
her suspicion that he had lived in " the city." And 
were not cities noted for all sorts of deception and 
duplicity? So, in spite of Abram's warm defense 
of his friend and the young man's uniformly good be- 
havior, she nursed her prejudice and would not, 
Esther was sure, lay it aside to favor such a wild 
proposition as that of correspondence. 

But it would all come right, of course it would, 
said Esther to herself; for in this new paradise road 
nothing stumbles and falls so readily as doubts and 
fears. So, during the rest of the service, she gave 
herself up to innocent imaginings and plans for the 
future ; and when the benediction was pronounced 
she bowed her head with the happy consciousness 
that she was indeed receiving the threefold blessing 
invoked, and that for ever and ever her heart would 
be kept " in perfect peace." 



" COMPANY F." 87 



CHAPTER VII. 

" COMPANY F." 

JULY days, sunny and sultry, passed rapidly, and 
the last loads of hay had been drawn from shaven 
fields. Barn doors stood wide open, and the sum- 
mer winds blew through between mows piled high 
on either side, still fragrant with the sweetest odors 
of earth and air ; and harvesting crowded close 
upon haying, or perhaps haying had dragged a little. 
What else could be expected, when every night 
men and boys alike hurried to the village post- 
office for " the news," and stopped to discuss it with 
neighbors and friends? And there was so much 
news to discuss. Surely the old controversy con- 
cerning the relative might of the sword and the 
pen was never so far from settlement as in those 
days when the one was constantly engaged in re- 
cording the deeds of the other. Never before had 
newspapers been in such demand, never had edito- 
rial courage and wisdom been so tested, never in the 
history of our land had thought responded to thought 
and impulse to impulse so quickly and with such tell- 
ing effect. 

Gilead's local paper, the Standard, whose motto 
was, "No compromise with slavery," and whose 
editor was a young man full of combativeness and 
moral courage, was issued every Friday. 



88 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

While the sheets were still damp from the press 
they were carried away by eager subscribers, who, 
after hearing a " Boston daily' ' read aloud in the post- 
office, Avere ready to study the events of the week in 
the light of Standard reports from the front. 

When at length the last recruit necessary to form 
the new company had given his name and received 
a glance of medical approval through old Dr. Snow's 
spectacles, an organization was effected ; and while 
the presses waited the Standard slipped in a com- 
plete list of men and officers. It was more popular 
that night than ever before. 

Benjie Steele was one of the first to snatch a copy, 
and away he rode toward home with his prize, en- 
tirely forgetting the nails and screws he was to 
purchase. He was at that age when a very little ex- 
citement is sufficient to set the blood racing through 
the body, and when there is no motive power quite 
rapid enough to keep pace with the imagination. Talk 
of telegraphic communication ! A boy of fifteen 
brooks no delay ; not that his business is all-im- 
portant, he simply wants things to move. 

That was Benjie's nature; and yet in hoeing- 
time he could, if he chose, rival a snail in his rate 
of progress from one potato-hill to another. Of 
such strange inconsistencies are boys capable. 

But he rode home through the darkness and the 
dust that August evening at Gypsy's best speed ; 
and, after turning her loose in the little pasture be- 
hind the barns, hurried into the sitting-room where 
the family were gathered. 

" I got the Standard and the list's in it — company 
all organized and every thing," he panted. 



"COMPANY F." 89 

His father laid aside the Tribune with a " Well, 
well, I want to know !" His mother looked up from 
her mending, the girls each held out a hand for the 
paper, and Abram, who sat at his desk in the cor- 
ner, paused in his writing and leaned his head upon 
his hand. 

Benjie began with the editorial : " Company F, 
popularly known as the Gilead Guards, is now full, 
and to-day elected officers, whose names, as also 
those of the privates, will be found in another 
column. 

" Among the new recruits are many of our best 
young men ; and, while they will be sadly missed, 
every patriotic citizen must rejoice that our town is 
to be so well represented in the ranks of our nation's 
defenders. Bristow's Falls and the Center have 
helped make up the — " 

" O, Benjie," interrupted Mary, "who cares for 
editorials? Do read the list." 

Benjie looked at her with lofty scorn. 

" I care for editorials. How would we know how 
things are goin' if 'twasn't for them ?" said he, mean- 
while turning the paper to the indicated column. 

" Well, John Bartlett is captain, just as we ex- 
pected, 'nd Judson Plumley's first lieutenant. Wal- 
ter Jackson, from the Center, is second lieutenant — " 

"Don Stanley's one of the sergeants, anyway," 
said Mary, peeping over Benjie's shoulder. 

"Yes, and Joe Armstrong 'nd Hiram Follinsbee 
are corporals. Now, I'm disappointed not to see 
David Douglas amongst the officers. He's a real 
smart feller ; he knows lots more 'n most of the boys, 
too." 



90 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

" It aint the wisest and best that get office, not 
always. I dare say David will make a good private 
soldier," said Mr. Steele. 

"Yes; he'll be good anywhere; but if they'd 
asked my advice I'd have said, ' Have David for cor- 
poral, for all of Hi Follinsbee.' " 

There was a laugh at this, for Benjie distinguished 
himself daily by planning campaigns and directing 
affairs generally. 

"Well, you needn't laugh," said he; "don't I 
know the boys a good deal better than most of the 
company? But they all feel so good I suppose 
they don't care much for office. John Henry 
Hickey said every Gilead boy would be an H. P., 
best they could do." 

" What's an H. P.?" asked Mary. 

" High Private, of course. I told John Henry he 
walked 's if he'd swallowed a ramrod ; but he said I 
ought to see him when he gets out of sight, 'nd I 
wouldn't worry." 

" The Hickey boys are straightening up wonder- 
fully," said Mary, as she carefully drew the paper 
from the table. " See here," she continued, " Vic's 
brother, Chester Shaw, is going. He was in the 
Standard office, you know. And hear this : ' The 
family of Mr. Joel Smith is truly patriotic, sending the 
father and three sons.' The family send them ! 
that must mean poor Mrs. Smith, and Abby Jane, 
and Huldah, and two or three babies." 

" They'll be left without a man to drive a nail," 
observed Benjie as he recaptured the paper. 

"I guess girls can learn to drive nails," cried 
Mary. 



"■COMPANY F." 91 

"Yes, finger-nails," retorted Benjie. 

" Three boys ! How can poor Mrs. Smith bear it ?" 
said Mrs. Steele, sympathetically. " But Pliny is not 
of age, I am very sure. No ; he was born the win- 
ter their house burnt, and that makes him a whole 
year younger than Austin. Strange they allow him 
to go." 

" I guess they take him along to keep him out of 
mischief; I wish somebody was obliged to take me," 
sighed Benjie. 

"They wouldn't find time to do any fighting if 
they did," said Mary, between whom and her 
brother existed an affection subject to frequent 
changes. 

" Children, children, be careful what you say ! " 
interposed their father. " It's no joke to 'list, for it 
means never seein' home again to a good many. 
Read the names of the boys, son." 

And with many an exclamation and interpolation 
the boy read the long list, while Esther's knitting- 
needles clicked, and the rest sat thoughtfully listen- 
ing and wondering what would be the future fate of 
the " Guards." 

Esther kept her fingers and needles flying, for, 
like all self-conscious people, she felt sure that the 
slightest change in her acts or words would be 
noticed ; and not for all the world would she have 
betrayed the fact that her heart was interested in 
one more than another of the names in that long 
column. 

Printer's ink stamps any subject with a distinct- 
ness that means finality ; so, while every body in 
town seemed to know who had enlisted, the fact 



92 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

was not fully realized until they saw it thus announced 
in black and white. 

" It reads too much like the killed and wounded 
list in the Boston Journal" said Mary. 

"And there's where you'll see some of 'em next, 
probably," added her mother, sadly. 

" Here's a long letter from the cavalry — from Cap- 
tain Plumley," said Benjie, rapidly scanning the 
paper ; " 'nd here's a little squib from somebody about 
the new company. Want to hear it? " and without 
waiting for a response the boy began to read one 
of those local letters such as add to the popularity 
of a paper in its own town. It was well written, 
giving advice to the new " soldier-boys " as well as 
considerable information concerning their immediate 
future ; and Benjie plunged along in his usual haste 
until he found himself reading the closing sentences : 
" Nothing but admiration is expressed for the brave 
men who form this new company. Its officers are, 
without exception, making a genuine sacrifice, 
whether we consider present position or future 
prospects, and are evidently actuated by pure pa- 
triotism ; while the privates are, as a whole, far above 
the average in appearance and character. Gilead 
may trust her ' war record ' in the hands of such 
men. As for those who exhibited a flaming zeal 
before the recruiting office was opened, and after- 
ward cooled off so suddenly, we have no words 
to express our contempt. If such were in the 
majority, ' secesh ' principles would soon rule the 
nation, law and order would be sacrificed, anarchy 
would — " 

Mary's foot was applied with such emphasis at 



"COMPANY F." 93 

this moment as to awaken Benjie to the fact that 
the article was dealing with a dangerous topic. 

He saw it at once, and marveled at his stupidity, 
while his face and neck reddened all over. He 
glanced quickly toward Abram, who still sat with 
his face bent over his desk and gave no visible sign 
of emotion. There followed a painful silence which 
no one cared to break. Benjie hid his glowing face 
and finished the article, which closed with a sarcas- 
tic reference which he felt must be aimed at Abram. 
He was thoroughly stirred, and tears of vexation 
filled his eyes and began to drop with a distinct 
noise upon the paper. Angry that he could not 
control himself, more than all angry that Abram 
should bring such disgrace upon himself and the 
family, he jumped up, seized a candle from the shelf, 
and ejaculating, "It's too confounded mean, so!" 
he disappeared up the stairs. 

Mr. Steele did not reprove or call him back, 
severe as he was against the use of "by-words." 
He snuffed his candle deliberately and turned 
again to his paper. Esther left her place by the 
table and moved over by Abram's desk, wishing she 
dared express the sympathy she felt ; while Mary, 
who did not approve of silence, introduced what 
she felt sure was a safe subject. 

" Mother," said she, " I wonder why Austin 
doesn't write. It's been weeks since we heard last. 
I think he is awful careless." 

" It never was easy for Austin to write," answered 
her mother. " He used to fret over his writing- 
books more than all the rest of you put together. 
But he promised to write every fortnight." 



94 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

" I dreamed last night that I saw him in a brass 
band," laughed Mary. " He had a horn that shone 
like the sun, and it was just the shape of the ram's 
horns that they blew when they went round Jericho, 
you know, and he was riding on a black horse." 

" Father read about Jericho yesterday morning; 
that's why you dreamed of horns," said Esther. 

" I'm glad it was a black horse instead of a white 
one," said Mrs. Steele, slowly. " I don't really be- 
lieve in signs, but I've noticed if you dream of a 
white horse you're almost sure to hear of sickness 
or death or some other trouble." 

Mary leaned her head upon the table close to her 
mother and whispered, " I don't think we need 
to dream about white horses, for we've got trouble 
enough now. I think Abram's real hateful, and if 
I was you and father I'd make him tell what's 
keeping him home." 

Mrs. Steele shook her head to enforce silence, 
and glanced with troubled eyes toward the corner. 

" I s'pose he wrote to Austin not to come home 
now he isn't needed," continued Mary, still in a 
whisper. " I guess Austin wonders what the trouble 
is, don't you ? " 

A warning cough from Esther checked the talka- 
tive girl at last, who tossed her head defiantly and 
picked up the Standard which had been thrown 
upon the floor in Benjie's wrath. 

If the family had been better acquainted with the 
tactics of writers just at that time they would have 
known that it was their policy to bring the army of 
stay-at-homes into disrepute. They would have 
known that there were many genuine cowards who 



"COMPANY F." 95 

might have considered that caustic letter a personal 
reproof, well deserved on account of their high pro- 
fessions of patriotism previous to the test of enlist- 
ment. In those days many a man remembered with 
delight that he had a " tendency " to consumption, 
or that he had a " bad knee,"or defective teeth ; and 
the number of " stiff joints " discovered was a libel 
on nature's system of lubrication. But under the 
circumstances they thought of no one but Abram 
that evening, and suffered accordingly. 

As for Abram, he was not yet so hardened as to 
be indifferent to public opinion. To be sure he 
had tried to fortify himself against it, but every 
day brought some new trial which he felt, as Gypsy 
felt through every nerve of her sensitive body the 
sting of a whip. But public opinion in general 
was nothing to him compared with that of his inti- 
mate friends ; for Abram, like all royal souls, placed 
a high estimate on those whose friendship he valued. 
And they had been to him — Judson Plumley and 
young Lawyer Parker and Don Stanley and all the 
rest — been to him and pleaded and coaxed until they 
were weary ; and then — for human nature is weak — 
had turned away either in anger or in silence, which 
expressed more than words. A few, and but a few, 
had remained quite the same. One of these was 
Don Stanley, who knew enough of the world to 
dimly suspect where the trouble lay ; and another 
was Joe Armstrong, who declared that he had 
" pulled with Abram Steele too long to leave him 
alone when he got stuck in a hard furrow." Others 
tried to resume the old friendly relations, but there 
is nothing so hard to counterfeit as the ring of sin- 



96 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

cerity in a familiar voice ; and Abram, with his clear 
insight, could not be deceived. He was, however, 
philosopher enough to say that he would do no 
better himself under similar circumstances. 

Next to the trial of losing the esteem of old 
friends was that of receiving the congratulations of 
new ones, who most unexpectedly came to the 
front. 

Old Mr. Slocum still owned the farm adjoining 
Mr. Steele's, and had so conducted himself since 
the commencement of the civil war as to win the 
epithet "copperhead,' which was applied some- 
what indiscriminately to rebel sympathizers in the 
North. Mr. Slocum was a hard-fisted old fellow 
who loved money so well that his capacity in the 
line of affection was exhausted. He regarded his 
country as deliberately wronging him in supporting 
the luxury of a war ; and as his sons and his son-in- 
law, who lived near, all subscribed to his doctrines, 
the family had become quite notorious in a commu- 
nity so generally loyal. Abram was at work one 
day near the " line-fence," when Mr. Slocum, who 
was busily mending the same, called to him, greet- 
ing him with a cordiality that was quite surprising. 

" Glad to know you've got a leetle grain of com- 
mon sense," said he. " Every body's so eat up 
with this rage to go South ; I declare it beats all! 
And they're bound to get the upper hand of us, 
them Southerners ; don't ye see they be ? Who 
wins the big battles? Why, the rebs do. They're 
on their own ter'tory; don't you see they be? 
They'll hold on to their niggers, too. So'd I if I 
was in their places, fer it Stan's to reason a man 



"COMPANY F." 97 

wont give up his property. Who's goin' to carry 
on them rice plantations and pick all that 'ere 
cotton, if the niggers all go to Afriky ? White folks 
can't do it — can't stand the hot weather. Don't 
ye see they can't?" 

Abram always had to smile at Mr. Slocum, he 
was so hopelessly ignorant and bigoted, so he an- 
swered good-naturedly: 

" The negroes wont go to Africa if they are freed. 
They will probably stay in the South and pick the 
cotton just as they do now, only they will be paid 
for their work like other men. They wont be 
slaves, and they ought not to be slaves." 

" I do' know about that;" and Mr. Slocum brought 
his hammer down upon the top fence-rail with em- 
phasis. " Folks don't all read the Bible alike, and 
folks don't always think alike. If they're set free 
they'll roam everywhere, all over creation. They'll 
be up here, and the town'll have 'em to take care 
of. Yis, sir; they'll be beggars and thieves, eatin' us 
out of house and home. And think of the taxes ! 
Land o' Goshen — think of the taxes ! They're goin' 
to take more 'n a man's got. Don't ye see they 
be?" 

The old man's eyes snapped, and his voice, al- 
ways high and shrill, sounded so like a cracked 
violin that Abram laughed again, even while he felt 
that, in a sense, he was " aiding and abetting " the 
old traitor. 

" Wal," he continued, wiping the sweat from his 

forehead and lowering his voice, " I was about to 

say I'm glad to see you know enough to stay to 

home ; I says to my folks, says I, ' Abram Steele's 

7 



98 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

got more sense 'n I thought he had. He knows 
which side his bread is buttered,' says I." 

" But, Mr. Slocum, I didn't want to stay at home. 
I should have enlisted when the rest did if my way 
hadn't been blocked," interrupted Abram, with 
considerable dignity. 

" O, y-a-a-s ! " drawled the old farmer, his eyes 
twinkling facetiously, " that's what I told my folks. 
Says I, ' Abram knows which side his bread's but- 
tered.' Them that goes to war is twice as likely to 
get shot as them that stays to home. Don't ye see 
they be ? " 

Abram dared not trust himself to reply, but his 
face grew white as he said " Good-morning " and 
returned to his work. 

Mr. Slocum had a dim idea that he might have 
misunderstood the young man ; but, after watching 
him a moment, he took up his hammer, muttering 
as he did so that " the Steeles was a dretful thin- 
skinned family." 



BLUE SUITS. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

BLUE SUITS. 

AND next in order came the new blue clothes 
for the " Guards." The earlier volunteers 
had not been thus equipped before leaving home, 
and the brief visits of a few "on furlough" had 
given to people in general but a glimpse of " blue 
and gold." Even the pompous officers who had 
visited the place since recruiting began tarried but 
for a night, leaving behind a vague impression of 
military splendor and a question as to what it must 
be to see a regiment thus arrayed. But now Gilead 
had a whole company of its own in uniform ! Has 
any one whose memory dates back to '62 forgotten 
how the boys looked in their dark blue coats, light 
blue pantaloons, and regulation caps ? How straight 
and tall they looked ! And as for their style of 
walking, they seemed to drop the old slouching 
stride, and step as if they had already been under 
the charge of a drill-master. The villagers had the 
first view of the company when, after receiving their 
outfit at their rendezvous, they appeared singly or 
in squads to " pass inspection." Proud and anxious 
to be seen they were, but modest withal, and quite 
overwhelmed by the hand-shakings and compliments 
which greeted them on every side. 

" Uncle Sam's boys forever! " shouted Ira Bar- 



100 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

stow from the post-office window ; and then the men 
and boys standing around began to cheer, and the 
children just released from school hurrahed and 
waved handkerchiefs, until our young soldiers felt 
inclined to beat a retreat. 

" Well, David," cried Mrs. Douglas, as her son 
appeared, having hurried home to exhibit himself 
to parental eyes, " well, David, you do look fine, 
indeed ; but I can't bear to think that my little Da- 
vid is really going to meet the great Goliath of 
slavery ! " 

" O, mother," laughed the young man, "don't 
call me your little David. I took one of the largest 
suits they had ; " and he drew himself up compla- 
cently, trying to survey his " five feet ten " in the 
tiny looking-glass that hung in the corner. 

" But it seems such a few days since you was a 
baby in the cradle. O, David, you're too good for 
a soldier ! " and for a moment it seemed as if 
Mrs. Douglas was about to follow the example of 
weaker women. " But I said I wouldn't cry, Da- 
vid, and I'll not begin now, for I love this dear 
country as well as though I'd been born here; 
and I wont say, like some of the mothers, that I 
wish I had no son to go, for I'm glad I have you 
and that you're brave enough to go ; " and she 
wiped the tears from her eyes, still sunny and clear, 
and David resolved, then and there, that his mother 
should never have cause to regret her sacrifice. 

But all the women were not as courageous as this 
clever Scotchwoman. Vic Armstrong, who had 
cried and scolded alternately while preparing neces- 
sary clothing for Joe, broke down completely when 



BLUE SUITS. 101 

she saw him coming through the trees that night 
and caught the sparkle of tell-tale brass buttons as 
the rays of the setting sun fell upon them. Little 
Nellie clapped her hands and laughed, reaching out 
eagerly for the new splendor ; but Vic threw herself 
into the big arm-chair and sobbed : 

" O, Joe, now you're going, now you're going! 
You don't love me and baby any more ! All you 
care for now is the new clothes and going to war." 

Joe caught her in his arms and smoothed her 
tangled hair. 

" O, now, Vic," said he, soothingly, " you mustn't 
talk so. You wouldn't want me to stay here 'nd 
feel too mean to live, while the rest of the boys 
went to war, would ye? Frank will come to stay 
with ye, 'nd I'll send home my money to pay up for 
the farm, 'nd when I come home I'll build a new 
house with a piazza all round. It wont seem no 
time hardly before we finish up that little job down 
South; and you'll write all about how things 're 
goin' here to home, 'nd I'll write every week, sure." 

" No ; you'll get shot. I know you will ! " wailed 
Vic ; " and I'll be left a widow woman like Grand- 
ma'am Pike." 

This pleased Joe immensely, and he laughed so 
heartily that baby Nell's lips began to curl with 
fright. 

" When you look like Grandma'am Pike," said 
he, nestling the baby closer, " Nellie will be about 
fifty years old. Don't ye worry about me, Vic, fer 
your old Joe's sure to come home." 

" If you could only wear a hemlet it would be 
some comfort," said Vic, wiping her eyes. 



102 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

" Wear a what?" inquired puzzled Joe. 

" A hemlet, such as the knights used to wear 
when they rode away on their coal-black steeds." 

" 0, that's some of your story-book nonsense, I 
guess ; " and Joe looked slightly annoyed, for he 
had no sympathy with his little wife's " helmeted 
knights," " fierce brigands," and " moated castles." 

" Well, they didn't go to war in them days in blue 
clothes trimmed with brass buttons. You can't 
even have a breastplate," said Vic, fretfully. 

" Speakin' of breastplates makes me think what 
Miss Hancock told us boys last Sunday. Kind of 
an armor, you know — why, yes, Vic — and there's a 
helmet, I remember now. Let's see. Breastplate 
of righteousness, helmet of salvation, sword of the 
Spirit." 

" O, I know what you mean, Joe," interrupted 
Vic ; " but that don't keep the bullets from killin' 
you." 

Joe was silent a moment, his eyes fixed on the 
floor. Then he kissed his wife softly and asked 
her what he could find for supper, for this careless 
housekeeper often made Joe take his meals in the 
pantry. 

Perhaps none of the new recruits felt more de- 
pressed by their uniforms than the Hickey boys. 
Naturally angular and awkward, they made desper- 
ate efforts to conform to the new order of things, 
but they had always dressed in such a very free- 
and-easy style that they rather resented " tight 
clothes with linin's." They bore up bravely while 
the cheering and congratulations lasted, and John 
Henry was so elated for the moment that he vent- 



BLUE SUITS. 103 

ured to bow to Miss Emma Alice Green, the mer- 
chant's daughter, a white-faced, listless young lady, 
who always reminded him of an angel ! They also 
maintained their dignity as they passed Squire 
Fletcher's, and were rewarded by Ruby's cordial 
bow and waving handkerchief. 

" I'll bet she wishes we was Abram Steele," said 
John Henry, soberly. 

" I heard some women tellin' mother the other 
day that Ruby tore round awful when any body 
spoke about him. Wished she might die if she 
ever had any thing to say to him, 'nd all such 
stuff," added George, in a low tone. 

" I don't b'lieve it. Too much soft wood fer a 
good steady fire. Folks better let that fuss alone, 
fer, as Hiel Saunders says, they'll find out some- 
time," said John Henry, who was in his way quite 
a social philosopher. But they had now gained the 
shelter of their beloved woods, and dared to express 
an opinion concerning their new habiliments. 

"Awful warm, aint they?" said John Henry, 
shrugging his shoulders. 

" I can't breathe good in mine. I'm a good mind to 
cut and run," said George, half joking, half in earnest. 
"We don't want gover'ment down on us though. 
Let's take off our coats 'nd go easy for a spell." 

And so it came to pass as Mrs. Hickey stood in 
the door-way with her hand above her eyes watch- 
ing for the boys she saw them coming up the hill, 
the new blue coats hanging over their arms as they 
" loped " along, laughing and joking as usual. Her 
great homely boys — how she loved them ! Good 
and honest they were, and as shrewd and intelligent 



104 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

fellows as you would find anywhere, only lacking 
the refinements of polite society. 

Glancing around from Mrs. Hickey's stand-point 
at the front door, it was an easy matter to read the 
secret of their liberty-loving tendencies. The farm 
was on the " height of land " and the house occupied 
a plateau at its summit. After reaching this, and 
recovering their breath, no one wondered that they 
enjoyed living there. Well-cultivated farms lay in 
full view flanked by green side-hill pastures, such 
as Vermonters, having known, never forget ; while, 
farther on, magnificent forests swept away on either 
hand, yielding a glimpse here and there of the val- 
ley below. Against the northern horizon old 
" Owl's Head " was visible, while away at the 
south was a far-distant range of mountains which 
looked, in their softened purplish outline, like a 
vision of dreamland. 

This was the view from the front of the house. 
On the opposite side, and toward the west, was a 
gradual slope, leading into a fine farming neighbor- 
hood and finally to the village of Bristow's Falls. 
A stranger, studying the economy of time and 
strength, would naturally suppose that the Hickeys 
would make that their village ; but no, their post- 
office was Gilead ; and, with the obstinacy of dwell- 
ers in hill countries, they really seemed to enjoy 
climbing up from the valley, and felt duly afflicted 
when drifted winter roads or an ailing horse pre- 
vented attending the Gilead church on Sundays. 

" It aint nothing to go up hill when you get used 
to it," quoth Mr. Hickey. 

It is a striking illustration of the wise provisions 



BLUE SUITS. 105 

of Providence that there are a good many people 
who agree with our friend, else the hills of New 
England never would have been settled ! 

The persistent energy which had won this hill farm 
from the wilderness had brought it to a high degree 
of perfection ; and it was, indeed, a picture, from 
the front yard, with its flaunting hollyhocks and 
dahlias, to the orchard, whose laden apple-trees 
leaned over the wall ; and still beyond to the wide 
corn-field, where, through a miniature forest of rus- 
tling leaves, gleamed golden pumpkins. 

Mrs. Hickey saw it all, glorified as it was by the 
sunset, and her heart ached as she thought that her 
boys must leave. 

" Just as we've got ready to live, and every thing 
so nice and pleasant, they want to go, both of 
'em, both of 'em ! " said she to herself, choking back 
the sobs that made her throat ache, and trying to 
smile as they approached. Little Emmeline, a 
sturdy five-year-old and the only daughter, thrust 
her flaxen head into view, pushing her mother's 
dress aside that she might greet her brothers. 
" New clothes ! " said she, briefly. 

" Yes, tow-head ! new clothes ; aint they pretty ? " 
and they threw their coats over a splint-bottomed 
chair outside the door, with a sigh of relief. 

" Birds on the buttons ! " continued Emmeline, 
examining them curiously. 

"Yes, sir; that's the glorious American eagle! " 
exclaimed her brother. " With torn pinions he 
soars aloft, crying to every loyal citizen — " 

" Give me liberty or give me death ! " interrupted 
George, as John Henry's breath failed. 



106 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

" He didn't, either," said the little sister, reprov- 
ingly^ 

" Keep still, George Washington ; that wasn't 
what I was going to say. He cries to every loyal 
free-born American citizen — " 

" Live or die, sink or swim, survive or perish, I'm for 
the Constitution ! " shouted the father of his country, 
who was immediately attacked by his brother. 

Little Emmeline instantly retreated to a respect- 
ful distance and stood with her hands meekly 
folded over her blue and white check apron, watch- 
ing the young gladiators, whose good-natured con- 
tests were a source of continual delight and terror. 
Mrs. Hickey was glad of their nonsense, for it gave 
her time to control herself. She bent over the new 
coats and tested the quality of cloth and " mak- 
ing " with true housewifely instinct. 

" They're very nice, and real well made," said she. 
" You must put them on when father comes. Here, 
sissy, go to the barn and call pa to supper ; it's all 
ready and waitin'." 

Mrs. Hickey was a remarkable housekeeper, and 
the table around which the family gathered in the 
large clean kitchen was covered with a tempting 
array of her best cookery. 

" Mother means we shall never forget her bis- 
cuits," said John Henry, reaching for his third, 
while George passed his plate for a second supply 
of cold lamb. 

" It does me good to see you eat," said their 
mother ; " I've a notion the soldiers don't get much 
variety in their victuals when they get down where 
the fiuhtingf is." 



BLUE SUITS. 107 

The boys exchanged amused glances with their 
father, and he remarked dryly: 

" No, mother, I understand gover'ment don't deal 
out fresh bread all round but once a day; dough- 
nuts not so often." 

" And frosted cake 'nd tarts only once a week," 
added John Henry, slyly. 

"Poor fellows!" sighed Mrs. Hickey, while the 
boys laughed uproariously over their joke. 

" Mother '11 have to read up a little after you're 
gone, I guess," said their father. " You must send 
us some of the hard-tack we read about, so we can 
see what Uncle Sam feeds his soldiers with." 

"If they don't feed you well, boys, you just 
come home. You know father and I believe in 
livin' well," said their mother. 

Again the boys went off in a gale of laughter, and 
John Henry declared he should die if she said any 
more. 

" Why, mother," said he, " don't you know we'd 
be shot for deserters if we ran away from the 
army? " 

" O, I don't mean that I want you to run away, 
exactly, but just tell the general that you can't stand 
the livin'. That's perfectly reasonable, I'm sure." 

This " amendment " was greeted with subdued 
chuckles by the " men folks," and good Mrs. Hickey 
rambled on, giving her ideas of what " gover'ment " 
ought to do in the line of equipping and feeding its 
soldiers. If she could have had her way there would 
have been feather-beds all around, and plum pre- 
serves and cake for regular rations. The time came, 
however, when she knew all about what her boys 



108 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

had to eat and how they slept ; but the lessons of 
the rebellion could not be learned all at once by 
busy women on Vermont hill-tops. Little by little, 
through sacrifice, and loss, and bleeding hearts, they 
learned how the mothers of a nation can suffer for 
the nation's sin. 

But this good supper and the quiet evening 
which followed were almost the last the Hickey boys 
enjoyed. In many other homes loving hands pre- 
pared niceties never seen save at Thanksgiving or 
some other festive occasion, that their loved ones 
might remember home comforts with pleasure ; but 
the time for their ministrations was short. Hardly 
a week from the arrival of the uniforms orders came 
that the company should report at the State ren- 
dezvous the following Wednesday. 



OAT TO DIXIE. 100 



CHAPTER IX. 

ON TO DIXIE. 

A DRUM-BE AT, followed by the clear musical 
notes of a bugle and supplemented by the 
church-bell, was sufficient to arouse the people on 
that eventful Wednesday morning. A very early 
start was necessary, as Gilead was four miles from 
the nearest railroad station, which must be reached 
by eight o'clock ; hence, before the fog lifted from 
the river, or released the village from its white 
envelopments, the echo of quick footsteps was heard 
upon the plank sidewalks. Familiar forms looked 
weird and unnatural, seen dimly through the mists, 
and the first wagon that rolled along the street 
with its silent occupants seemed like some mysteri- 
ous vehicle walking in its sleep. There was a very 
perceptible chill in the damp air; and the new 
recruits, as they greeted each other, shrugged their 
shoulders and hoped it would be warmer " down in 
Dixie." As daylight increased one could see that 
quite a crowd had collected — men, women, and little 
children — a quiet, sad-eyed crowd, among which the 
boys in blue passed to and fro, trying to talk and 
laugh, poor fellows ! — as though staid Gilead was 
accustomed to convene every morning to see the 
sun rise, and they were in no sense responsible for 
this gathering. Flags were displayed at the court- 



110 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

house, post-office, bank, and hotel, as well as from 
the flagstaff on the common ; and a short distance 
away were carriages, to convey the soldiers and their 
baggage to the station. After a little delay the 
" Gilead Brass Band," sadly depleted by the out- 
going company, struck up " America," and the peo- 
ple hastened to the brown church, where a tem- 
porary platform had been erected. 

Judge Plumley stepped forward, looked over the 
assembled company, and in a voice he could with 
difficulty control, said : 

" There is no time for speech-making this morn- 
ing, nor are we in a mood for speeches. We are 
here as loyal citizens of Gilead, to say good-bye to 
the citizen soldiers of our own and adjoining towns. 
We differ from many lands in this, that our soldiers 
are not such by profession, or for a long period of 
time. You are still fathers, husbands, brothers, and 
sons, going out from your homes to help save our 
country from ruin in this her time of peril. We 
believe you are truly patriotic, and that your enlist- 
ment is from a sense of duty. We shall watch your 
career with pride, shall rejoice in your success, and 
pray most earnestly for your safe return. Remem- 
ber, officers and private soldiers, that you leave be- 
hind those who love and honor the principles for 
which you are ready to die ; and that while we can- 
not be with you we are still one in our devotion to 
our country and our country's flag. In the name 
of tliis and other towns which you represent, I 
pledge you our hearty co-operation in the work 
of putting down the rebellion. May your lives be 
precious in the sight of the God of battles, and 



ON TO DIXIE. Ill 

his comforting presence go and remain with you 
always ! " 

Hearty cheering followed these earnest words, 
growing even more enthusiastic as Captain Bartlett 
stepped forward to reply. 

The people looked at him through tears as he 
stood there so handsome and so fearless ; and, just 
as he began to speak, the sunlight burst through 
the mists, falling like a morning blessing upon his 
bared head and untarnished uniform. An invol- 
untary murmur of applause again rose around him, 
and he smiled in response and begged the sorrowful 
hearts before him to accept it as an omen of good, 
a prophecy of coming victory, peace, and reunion. 
And then he pledged himself and his men to all 
that was brave, and noble, and true. Can such 
speeches be reported ? Can the present generation 
even imagine what it was to live in those days? 
Such scenes were being repeated somewhere every 
day ; and every-where hearts beat high with emo- 
tions of self-sacrifice and patriotic daring. Every 
loyal soul was aroused and responsive to the over- 
mastering impulse of the hour ; and eloquence, 
whose very breath is liberty, touched the lips of 
every impassioned orator. To live at such a time 
was to know the heights of self-renunciation and 
the depths of sacrificial pain ; and as the keenness 
of that suffering can never be portrayed to those 
who did not experience it, neither is it possible to 
describe the fervid enthusiasm which was kindled 
in that hour of national danger. It ran from heart 
to heart, turning timidity to fearlessness, self-seeking 
to self-sacrifice, producing armies of heroes ready 



112 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

to die upon the altar of their country. And in all 
this there was a faith in the sacredness of the altar, 
and a firm belief that God was directing in the con- 
flict. However it may have been in crowded cities 
where grosser motives held partial sway, in many 
quiet New England towns this passion of loyalty 
was nothing less than religion at white heat. The 
cry was, in deed and in truth, " God and our native 
land!" 

A stranger might have failed to appreciate this 
fact, for New England enthusiasm does not always 
vent itself in noise ; but one who knew how to read 
aright would have learned the truth by looking in 
the earnest, thoughtful faces of that listening audi- 
ence. When Captain Bartlett closed his remarks 
the people were too deeply moved to think of ap- 
plause. The time to say good-bye was very near. 
The old pastor of the brown church raised his hand 
and said, " Let us pray ; " and a profound silence, 
broken only by deep inspirations and a low under- 
tone of sobs, fell upon the people. There are times 
when prayer is like the speech of friend to friend ; 
and the most careless hearts were touched and ele- 
vated as they found themselves commended to the 
guidance and protection of Him who was evidently 
very near them — so near that the sunshine now fall- 
ing brightly every-where seemed no more real than 
his presence. But with the solemn "Amen," which 
fell from many lips, closed the simple farewell serv- 
ice. The leave-taking which followed cannot be 
described. There was Captain Bartlett's young wife 
in her father's carriage, with white, still face and 
tearless eyes which followed his every movement ; 



ON TO DIXIE. 113 

and very near sat Joe Armstrong's little wife and 
the baby, with her father and mother. Vic was 
trying to be calm, but her most heroic efforts only 
resulted in floods of tears which she concealed as 
best she could behind Nellie's sunny head. And 
moving through the crowd was Esquire Fletcher, 
with eyes suspiciously red, telling every body to 
" keep the tears back and give the boys a cheerful 
send-off." 

And there were the Hickeys, father and mother 
and little sober-faced Emmeline, faithful to "their 
boys" to the last; and David Douglas's brave par- 
ents, talking cheerily to him and to others whose 
friends were not there ; and, in striking contrast, Mr. 
Rollins, who watched proceedings with a forbidding 
face, ami would have kept Thomas from going to 
that " unrighteous war " at the last moment if the 
young man had not attained his majority. 

Poor Mrs. Follinsbee stood a little apart, with a 
child clinging to her dress on either side, proud as 
she could be of her big, soldierly husband, yet 
crushed and wretched at thought of losing him. 
Don Stanley, as straight and handsome as the cap- 
tain himself, had been besieged by a bevy of the 
village girls, who were wonderfully impressed by his 
appearance ; but he was watching for one face which 
was not there. Benjie's opportune appearance, 
however, gave him a trusty messenger for a hastily 
written note to Esther, who was at that moment 
shedding her tears alone and thinking with a sinking 
heart of the events she could not witness. Ruby 
Fletcher was with Miss Hancock and other ladies at 
Judge Plumley's front gate, where she looked and 
8 



114 THE GILEAD' GUARDS. 

listened, with glowing cheeks and changing mood ; 
at one moment protesting that Mrs. Plumley ought 
not to cry — she wouldn't cry if she had two boys in 
the army ; she would say, like that old Roman 
matron, "Come home with, or on, your shields" — 
and the next moment she would be bidding some 
old school-mate good-bye with tears rolling down 
her cheeks. 

Hiel Saunders stopped a moment at the gate to 
say : 

" I swanny, it's too bad to see our best boys 
a-goin' off this way! Makes me wish I could wind 
up the whole gover'munt concern." And Ruby, 
with elevated chin, declared that he ought to be 
ashamed of himseff; and if it were not for his good- 
for-nothing eyes she wouldn't give him any peace 
until he went himself. Miss Hancock, who knew 
that these speeches came from the poor child's sore 
heart, patted her hand softly and. whispered : 

" 'Tis easy thus to give our anger vent ; 
'Tis harder when we find we must repent." 

" O, you made that up on purpose for me," said 
Ruby, half pettishly. But the old yellow stage and 
the large wagons and private conveyances of various 
kinds were now in readiness. Last kisses were ex- 
changed and last blessings bestowed. The officers 
gave their orders, the company drew up in position, 
and the next moment all was ready for departure. 
The band began to play, caps were lifted, handker- 
chiefs waved, eyes met and spoke one more mute 
farewell, and with cheers and music and flying flags 
the boys in blue rode away. 



ON TO DIXIE. 115 

Quickly and almost in silence the people began to 
disperse. The excitement and display and brave 
talk were all over now, and there remained for them 
only days of work and days of waiting. 

Many a pitying glance followed poor Mrs. Smith, 
who seemed to have given so much more than any 
one else, as she backed her horse out of the meeting- 
house shed and helped the children, Huldah, Abby 
Jane, and the little boys, into the two-seated wagon. 
She had had offers of assistance, but only replied, 
"No, I'm capable, thank you," with the quiet de- 
termination of a woman who decides from the first 
to be independent. The two girls, with little three- 
year-old Prescott, occupied the back seat ; while 
Byron, a sedate boy of ten, climbed up beside his 
mother, watching her with some apprehension as she 
gathered up the reins and started faithful old Doll 
toward home. He unconsciously raised himself as 
high as possible, as though to make the contrast 
between his father's broad shoulders and his dimin- 
utive form less apparent, although he felt the differ- 
ence most keenly. He had been deeply impressed 
and his curiosity had been aroused by the morning's 
proceedings ; and after they had jogged along some 
time in silence he began to ask questions, like a true 
little Yankee as he was. 

" Mother, what does father and Homer and 
Chester and Pliny want to go to war for? " he asked. 

"To put down the rebellion," answered his 
mother, recalling her thoughts with an effort. 

" What you mean by the rebellion ? " 

" Why, the Southern States rebelled — left the 
Union, sonny." 



116 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

" What for?" persisted Byron. 

"The Southern folks kept slaves. All the black 
men and women down there were slaves to the white 
ones. 'Taint right, and the Northern people said 
they shouldn't do it, and they shouldn't make any 
more slave States. Then the Southern States said 
they wouldn't stay in the Union," explained his 
mother, patiently. 

" And was that secesh — what father and the boys 
talked about ? " 

" Secession ? Yes." 

" What was they' going to do when they got out ? " 

" Stay out, and have a gover'ment of their own." 

Byron meditated a moment. 

" And the war is goin' to bring 'em back ? " 

" Yes, yes, and free the slaves," said this far-see- 
ing and believing woman. 

" Well, if it's got to be done I s'pose my father 
had to go, and the boys. Do you s'pose, mother, 
they will whip and get through afore next spring ? " 
he asked, confidentially. 

" O, Byron, I hope so, I hope so," said his mother, 
earnestly. 

" My father'll help a good deal ; " and Byron gave 
an assuring nod of his big head. " He's awful 
strong, 'most as strong as a giant. I'll bet ye, sir, 
he could twist the chains right off 'm them niggers." 

" Don't say niggers," interposed Huldah, with a 
womanly air, from the depths of her "shaker." " I 
read the other day that nobody with any self-respect 
would use that word. You must say negroes, or 
colored people." 

Byron had oceans of self-respect. 



ON TO DIXIE. in 

" Well, mother," said he, " if the negroes or col- 
ored people get free, would the negroes or colored 
people be glad and hallelujah to the starry skies?" 

Poor Mrs. Smith's sad, anxious face relaxed into 
an actual smile — a small one — as she asked, 

" Why, sonny, what do you mean ? " 

" That's what Captain Bartlett said, near as I can 
remember ; and he said God up in heaven held the 
reins in this war." 

" Yes, he did, mother ; anyway, that's what he 
meant," interposed Huldah. " You was crying so 
you didn't notice, I guess." 

" That's what he said," continued Byron ; " and 
if God up in heaven holds the reins, that means he's 
driving — " 

" Yes," assented his mother. 

" And if he's driving, why, the team can't run 
away," said the boy. 

Byron concluded his reasoning with a slow, self- 
satisfied smile, and turned his attention to the horse 
and the slowly revolving wheels, while his mother, 
who had been looking into the future with dreary 
foreboding, felt comforted as she thought of the 
strong Hand that was guiding, not only the nation, 
but her own humble affairs, and would surely keep 
both from destruction. 

It is rather humiliating to acknowledge that any 
thing occurred on that bright August morning to 
mar its history; but there were a few men, even in 
Gilead, who looked upon the departure of the 
"Guards" with unsympathetic eyes. 

Mr. Slocum and two or three of his " party 
friends " had stood upon the outskirts of the crowd, 



118 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

and, while they were silenced and awed by the 
scene, were quite ready when it was over to take 
exceptions. 

" Looks very fine to 'em now," said Mr. Green, 
sagely, " gives 'em a chance to see the world ; but 
they'll change their tune one of these days." 

" Yes," struck in Mr. Slocum's high tones; " they 
haint smelt gunpowder yet. None of 'em aint 
killed nor wounded yet. My boys aint goin\ no, 
sir! If this country's bound to go to ruin none of 
my family aint goin' to have a hand in it." 

So busily were these worthies conversing that 
they did not notice the approach of numerous feet 
until a concert of hisses attracted their attention, 
and, turning, they confronted a dozen boys tramp- 
ing sturdily along just in the rear, their eyes flash- 
ing and their best efforts concentrated upon the 
well-understood " hiss." 

" Stop it ! stop it ! clear out and run right away, 
you sassy little rascals ! " cried the old man, flour- 
ishing his cane right and left. 

"Copperhead! copperhead!" shouted the boys 
as they scattered, laughing at the result of their ex- 
periment. 

" Boys haint no respec' for gray hairs. They're 
all full of this ere war-talk, goin' right straight to 
ruin ; don't ye see they be ? " 

The old man did not realize how those boys had 
been thrilled by what they had heard and seen, nor 
that they felt they were vindicating the honor of 
their country in opposing him. He did not even 
notice that they wore " McClellan caps," nor know 
that they could whistle " Rally 'round the flag, 



ON TO DIXIE. 119 

boys," like a brass band. So he and his compan- 
ions continued to discuss government affairs in dole- 
ful tones, agreeing that speedy and utter ruin 
awaited the country ; and little Byron Smith was 
not there to remind them that " God up in heaven 
held the reins." 

That morning Abram Steele had risen very early, 
and while Benjie was hurrying villageward he 
strode away to a certain hill pasture where he was 
sure to be alone and undisturbed. He did not 
think, until he reached the place and began to ex- 
amine the fence which he had persuaded himself 
needed his attention, that he was nearer town at 
that point than he could have been at any other 
on the farm. The clear tones of the bell first re- 
minded him of this fact ; and after working aim- 
lessly for a few moments he laid down his hammer 
beside the nail-box, and leaned against a huge gray 
rock which formed the corner where two fences 
met. 

There he stood with arms folded across his breast, 
straw hat pushed back, and eyes fixed dreamily upon 
the clouds of mist, which, seen from his stand- 
point, were already scurrying hither and thither be- 
fore the sun's rays. So absorbed was he in his 
own thoughts that time passed unheeded, and his 
face became almost like that of a statue in its 
fixed and silent outline. 

It was a face that had always borne close scru- 
tiny, for it indicated truthfully his strong, well-bal- 
anced character. As the country people said, " It 
was recommend enough." But within a few weeks 
it had assumed an expression never seen there 



120 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

before, the subtle change which surely follows a 
rapid development of mental or spiritual life. It 
was a typical face — we arc pleased to believe — 
which an artist might have chosen for his ideal of 
a Puritan, or for one of those early Christians who 
heard wild beasts roar and walked upon the arena 
to meet them without sign of faltering. 

But there was no artist to note symmetry of form 
or nobility of feature, and Abram himself did not 
even suspect that he was capable of being heroic. 
The possibility of taking a course other than that 
he had taken after his first struggle had never 
occurred to him. There are natures so like a plumb- 
line that they are all ready to be used in God's car- 
pentry without the endless trouble of straightening. 
This is worth remembering in a world where so 
many require geometrical demonstration to teach 
them how to find the shortest distance between 
two given points. 

But Abram's high sense of honor, integrity of 
purpose, and persistence in action could not pre- 
vent his heart going out with a great longing to- 
ward the gathering in the village. He fancied him- 
self there with the crowd whose applause he felt 
almost sure he could hear. He was proud, excited, 
and elated as he imagined himself in uniform ready 
for speedy departure. Ruby's face, full of enthu- 
siasm as it had been on that Sunday evening — was 
it a hundred years ago ? — rose before him, and he 
saw her dear eyes grow moist while her lips still 
smiled as he whispered his last " good-bye." He 
saw the fluttering red, white, and blue ribbons at 
her throat, and the odor of clove pinks was in the 



ON TO DIXIE. 121 

air. Hark ! The music of a familiar patriotic march 
floated up to his retreat, and he involuntarily lifted 
his straw hat and straightened himself, sure that it 
must be the signal for final departure. He strained 
his ears to catch the last, the very last cornet notes, 
and then the faint, far-away roll of the drum ; and 
then — with a long-drawn breath, he found himself 
standing in the silence alone. The " Gilead Guards" 
were on their way to glory, and he was left behind ! 

And he had wanted to go so much, so much ! 
He had understood the gospel of the war better 
than had most of the boys, and had been uncon- 
sciously preparing for it for years, so closely had 
he followed, even in his early youth, the develop- 
ment of national questions. And now to stay at 
home under an imputation of cowardice! 

The " path of duty" may be " the path of beauty" 
indeed, but it sometimes leads through desert 
places. 

The wild birds sang in the woods near by that 
morning, and in a neighboring pasture a flock of 
sheep nibbled between the stones and bleated so- 
cially, while aLl through the sultry summer air was 
that " background of noise " furnished by droning, 
humming, and buzzing insects, intent on fulfilling 
their brief missions; but Abram heard nothing, saw 
nothing. He was conscious only of a loneliness that 
was harder to bear than actual pain. Years after- 
ward he said to one who questioned him closely 
concerning that period of his life : 

" I can't tell you much about that morning. You 
must live at such a time, and feel as I did, to 
know how I suffered." 



122 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER X. 

AUSTIN'S LETTER. 

" T DECLARE, if I don't believe this must be from 
J. Austin Steele ! It's a franked war letter, too ! 
Well, well, it's been two months or more since they 
heard from him to my knowledge, and now it ap- 
pears he's gone to war;" and Ira Barstow held 
up the plump envelope between himself and the 
light curiously. It was plainly directed to Mr. 
Steele, and across the end was a scrawl with " M. C." 
beneath, indicating that it had received the name 
of some congressman, which was sufficient in those 
days to bring soldiers' letters to the home office. 

Mr. Barstow could not stop to scrutinize the 
letter as he would have done in former days. The 
time had been when he could have given the history 
of the town as it sifted through his hands in limited 
correspondence ; but soldiers' letters and extra 
papers made Gilead's mail-bag plethoric, and the 
people, instead of coming to the office once a week, 
came every night and crowded the limited space, 
waiting impatiently for the news, until he was well- 
nigh distracted with rapid work and outside noise. 
He did not fully enjoy the change, for it seemed 
like defrauding government to push such valuable 
documents into their respective boxes with no 
time to speculate over post-marks. Mr. Barstow 



AUSTIN'S LETTER. 123 

was alone in the world, and his work supplied in a 
sense the lack of fireside and friends. 

Benjie was late in calling for his mail that night, 
and Mr. Barstow felt almost vexed over the delay. 

" It's from Austin, I guess," said he, yielding the 
letter at length to the boy's eager fingers. " Your 
folks worried any? Must be he's gone to war. 
Thinks I, may be Abram knew it all along." 

Benjie looked at the familiar handwriting, opened 
his lips as if to speak, closed them again, thrust it 
into his pocket, and hurried away. 

Mr. Barstow laughed silently. 

" Close-mouthed, like all the family," said he. 
" ' Tend to their own business and keep their own 
counsel, and that's all right. No law to prevent 
that ever I heard of." 

There was a commotion in Mr. Steele's sitting- 
room when Benjie burst in, more breathless and 
excited than usual, and exclaiming, " Letter from 
Austin at last ! " threw it upon the table in front of 
his father. 

Abram sprang up from his desk with a look of 
relief and expectation ; his mother and the girls 
hurried in from the kitchen, and Mr. Steele, peering 
through his spectacles at the letter which he held 
in his trembling hand, said in the words of Mr. 
Barstow : 

" It appears he's gone to war ! Read it, Abram." 

Abram did not at once respond. He had torn it 
open and was scanning page after page, searching 
for something he evidently did not find ; for after a 
moment's delay his face lost its brightness and he 
handed the letter to Esther. 



124 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

" You read Austin's writing better than I," said 
he, and returned to his quiet corner. 

" Read it, I can't wait ;" and Mrs. Steele, with 
hands tightly clasped, leaned back in her rocking- 
chair with closed eyes. Esther bent her head to 
the lamp and began : 

"'In Camp, September 25, 1862. 

" ' Dear Father : You will all be surprised to get 
a letter from Virginia instead of Massachusetts, unless 
Uncle Austin has written about my enlisting. As I 
asked him not to I presume you have been wondering 
and worrying, perhaps, for some time. I ought to 
have written at once, and intended to, but waited 
for time and quiet and conveniences, until I found 
if such business was attended to at all it must be 
just when I could get a few spare moments right in 
the midst of disturbance, and with no better writing- 
desk than my knapsack or the bottom of my tin 
plate. 

" ' You know, too, what a boy I am to put off till 
to-morrow what ought to be done to-day, and I 
dreaded to break the news and ask you to forgive 
me for enlisting without your consent. But you 
will, all of you, wont you ? ' " 

" Yes, we will," cried Benjie, snapping his fingers 
and nodding his head excitedly, while his mother 
sobbed : 

" Bless his heart ! He was always quick to do 
wrong and quick to repent." 

Esther read on : 

" ' But, father, if you had been in Boston and heard 
the music and the cheering and the speeches, and 



A US TIN 'S LE TTER. 1 25 

seen the flags flying and the regiments marching, 
you would have felt just as I did. Why, it was 
Uncle Tom s Cabin and Horace Greeley's Tribune 
editorials and Elder Put's sermons mixed together 
and taken hot. I said to myself, " If father was 
younger, and wasn't lame, he would go;" and I 
kept thinking of what you had said until it seemed 
to me you would expect me to go. Well, by and 
by I could not think of any thing else. My appe- 
tite was all gone and my work was drudgery. At 
last I went with two other clerks, who were going 
to enlist to fill up the ranks of an old regiment, the 
— the Massachusetts, and right then and there I 
gave my name, and was accepted, too. I expected 
there might be trouble about my age, but the others 
were older than I, and one of them answered for 
me. He said afterward he didn't know but I was 
twenty-one ; if I wasn't I ought to be. 

" 'At any rate, almost before I realized it I was a 
soldier. I called at Uncle Austin's and told him I 
was going. He never says much, you know, but 
was sorry I had been in such a hurry — said I ought 
to have written and got your consent at least ; 
and I didn't tell him I was afraid you would not 
give it. 

" ' Aunt Elizabeth said a great deal, as her habit 
is, and gave me lots of good advice. If I could fol- 
low it I should be too good for this world. She 
gave me a Testament, and I felt real tender over 
it till she said she got it for nothing of a Bible 
agent.' " 

Even the tearful mother had to join in the gen- 
eral laugh which followed this characteristic an- 



126 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

nouncement ; for Aunt Elizabeth, whose wealth 
seemed fabulous to her husband's country relatives, 
was far from generous. 

" ' There is one thing more you ought to know, 
although I am ashamed to tell it. I did not go 
to Mr. Webber at all after we enlisted. We had 
just been paid, and the other clerks said he was a 
hard man to deal with when he got excited ; so we 
just kept clear of the store till we left the city, 
which was only a few days afterward.' " 

Mr. Steele's face flushed and his voice trembled 
as he said : 

" That's bad for Austin. He hadn't ought to 
have done so. That wasn't the square thing." 

" He says so himself, father ; just hear; " and Es- 
ther continued : 

" ' I am ashamed of it now, and also that I was so 
extravagant that I had only money enough to get 
me what I needed to bring away. I got to going with 
a couple of the clerks who were not very good fel- 
lows — not the ones who enlisted — and spent money 
foolishly. I did not realize what they were until 
just before I left ; but I am fairly away from their in- 
fluence now, and will try to be a credit to you.' " 

" Poor boy ! " said his mother, pressing her hand- 
kerchief to her eyes ; " how could we have consented 
to let him go down to that wicked city?" 

But Abram, with his hands thrust into his hair 
and his eyes dry and stern, said to himself, " Of 
course he didn't want to see Mr. Webber." From 
his view of the case his worst fears were con- 
firmed, and he felt that his last hope was also 
extinguished. 



AUSTIN'S LETTER. 127 

Esther read on : 

" ' When I lie down in my blanket at night I think 
of you all and remember your counsel. Last night 
I dreamed of that fall I had, years ago, from a 
cherry-tree, when Abram lugged me home on his 
back. He was always so good to me — it makes me 
feel mean when I think may be he wanted to come 
down to Dixie — but he isn't the kind of fellow to 
feel as I did about it. If I had gone home to work 
on the farm I should have been good for nothing; 
but now if I get popped over down here you will 
have the best one left. 

" ' I meant to have told you about a skirmish I was 
in the other day— for Benjie's benefit — but can't this 
time. Will write him soon. Meanwhile I hope 
you will send me the home news as soon as possible, 
for when I stop to think of you all it seems as 
though I could not wait to hear. Write how your 
lameness is ; how the crops are this fall ; who has 
enlisted that I know, and how you feel about the 
war. If the folks get blue tell them we are not ; for 
we expect to win in less than a year. There is a 
rumor that we are to move soon, and I must ascer- 
tain how your letters will reach me.' " 

And with an animated scrawl of an eagle sup- 
posed to be burdened with love for each member 
of the family Austin's epistle closed. 

" Well," said Mr. Steele, polishing his spectacles 
carefully on a corner of the table-cloth, " I'd thought 
of it, but he hadn't ought to have 'listed that way. 
Don't take it too hard, mother ; we're no wuss off than 
thousands. When a boy gets bewitched to go he 
seems to lose his head ; " and the old farmer resumed 



128 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

his newspaper-reading, apparently, although for some 
minutes his Tribune was wrong side up. 

" I think he might have told us about the fight, 
anyhow," grumbled Benjie. " I'll write to-morrow, 
see if I dont, and ask him a thousand questions. 
Where does he say to send his letters?" 

Esther looked carefully. 

" I don't find any thing— I am afraid — " And 
then they all examined every page again ; but ev- 
idently the careless boy, hungry as he was for home 
news, had neglected to add the information he was 
so anxious to give. 

The letter was re-read and reviewed by Esther 
and Mary, with Benjie's head between theirs ; and 
much that he had not written was "guessed at; " 
for a loving curiosity will press through the narrow 
gate-way of a pen-flourish in search of reasons and 
motives and feelings which might have influenced 
the writer. But in no way could they discover the 
lacking address, and their only hope was that 
another letter was already on its way. One fact, 
however, was established in Benjie's mind, at least — 
Austin was the hero of the family, and from the 
parlor-table he brought the old daguerreotype and 
the new " Boston photograph," to be examined with 
this character in view. In the first Austin was a 
round-faced boy of fourteen, with rigid muscles and 
scared yet resolute face. 

" There's a real die-on-the-field-of-battle look, 
now, just as plain as can be ; " and Benjie rubbed 
the glass and held the picture in a favorable light, 
that his sisters might catch the prophetic expres- 
sion. " Now see this one ! " and with genuine pride 



AUSTIN'S LETTER. 129 

Benjie balanced the photograph of the hero, taken 
on his nineteenth birthday, against a pile of books. 
" That's Austin, sure enough ! Must look gay in 
his new blue clothes." But as he spoke a mistiness 
obscured the boy's eyes, and the girls turned away 
from the bright young face that smiled at them so 
hopefully with quivering lips. Their mother left 
the room after one glance at the picture, and Benjie 
took it back to its sacred corner, remaining in the 
dark parlor several minutes and returning very 
quietly. It was a grand thing to have a brother in 
the army, of course ; but one must be careful about 
these photographs. 

He was soon busy looking over a Harper s Weekly 
with Mary, and as they examined the pictures 
which brought the scenes of the war so vividly be- 
fore them they whispered their views of their broth- 
er's future career. But Esther, with a sudden 
thought which made her heart beat very fast, moved 
her chair into the corner beside Abram's desk. 

" Did you know before to-night that Austin had 
enlisted?" she asked, in an eager whisper. He 
looked at her a moment thoughtfully and bowed. 

Her eyes grew large with surprise and excitement. 

" Was that the reason of your staying at home ? " 

Again he bowed gravely, and dipped his pen as 
though to continue writing ; but she tapped his arm 
with her knitting-needle impatiently. 

" Why didn't you say so, then ? " 

Abram smiled at her indignant tone. 

" Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies," 
said he ; " that's district-school policy." 

But Esther would not be put off. 
9 



130 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

" Abram," said she, gravely, " you know how we 
have all felt. Now, for all our sakes, and for Ru- 
by's sake, I'm just going to tell every body how it 
is. It's a shame ! " 

Abram turned toward her with a look she never 
forgot. 

" You wont do any such thing. There are other 
reasons that I can't tell you — reasons that mustn't 
be known. I promise you to explain just as soon 
as I can ; but till then you must trust me — and — 
pity me, if you want to. If you want to help me, 
Esther, never even hint that you know more than 
the rest of the family." 

Esther was amazed, but dared press her question- 
ings no further. One point, however, she ventured 
to urge, for she had felt keenly the alienation from 
Ruby Fletcher, and was eager to see the old relations 
re-established. 

" I'll do any thing you say, Abram, if you'll only 
let me give Ruby one little hint — just so she will 
understand you're not to blame." 

" Never ! " said he, sternly ; and then, after a 
struggle with himself, he added : " Esther, I wrote 
Ruby a note asking her to see me and let me make 
an explanation. That was several weeks ago — just 
before she went to the seminary. But she — sent it 
back unopened." 

Esther's eyes flashed. 

" I didn't think she could ! O, I'm glad she's 
gone, and I will never write to her — never ! " 

" No, I wouldn't. It would hardly be the thing 
to do." 

After a little pause he continued : 



A USTIN J S LE TTER. 131 

" Don't think I'm going to break down under 
this trouble. I have had some experience along 
with it that I couldn't be persuaded to part with. 
I'm going to think of other things, too — like this, 
for instance," handing her a geology. " Suppose 
you learn about the rocks too. Perhaps if we turn 
toward the past we may not think so much about 
the present." 

It is but fair to state in this connection that 
Abram was not the only one who had adopted 
study as a relief. Ruby had lost her appetite and 
" sithed," as Martha Thompson had stated, until 
her father's patience was exhausted. In consulta- 
tion with Miss Hancock he had said, desperately : 

" She shall go away to school and find something 
else to think about. She must go on with her mu- 
sic under better teachers than we have here ; so get 
her ready, mother, and I'll take her to Hope Sem- 
inary." 

So Mrs. Fletcher obediently prepared Ruby for 
the new life, and the stubborn little patriot, after 
crowning her martyrdom by sending back Abram's 
letter, made a knot of fresh " red, white, and blue " 
for her pretty gray traveling-dress and left Gilead, 
determined to forget the past. 



132 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER XL 

MRS. PHELPS'S THANKSGIVING SERMON. 

THE open country is always conscious of the 
approach of winter. In city and town there 
are a thousand ways of beguiling one's self with a 
prolonged autumn ; but genuine country livers un- 
derstand very well what comes " after harvesting." 
And Gilead saw indisputable signs, from lowest val- 
ley to highest hill-top, that winter was at its doors. 
The brilliance of its forests was gone, and there 
remained only the evergreens mingled with sober 
browns, which grew purple here and there at sunset. 
The summer birds had flown, and their empty nests, 
swinging on many a bare gaunt branch, were but 
pitiful reminders of songs and sunshine. A pre- 
monitory chill was in the wind as it swept across 
the stubble of wide corn-fields, shaking the brown 
shriveled leaves still clinging to the low-cut stalks ; 
and there is nothing that looks colder in all the 
wide range of hill and plain than these same faded 
rustling tatters of former greenness and glory. 
The farm-houses were all " banked," giving them a 
comical tucked-up appearance, and every thing was 
made as snug and secure as possible, for Gilead al- 
ways expected six months of cold weather. Finally 
the last harrow-shaped flock of wild geese had cloven 
the sky and disappeared southward with its weird 



MRS. PHELPS'S THANKSGIVING SERMON. 133 

farewell " Honk ! honk ! honk ! " And then, with a 
preliminary roaring in the wind-swept hills, came the 
first snow, just whiteningthe frozen fields with coquet- 
tish flurries at first, and a little later captivating the 
town in a single night, thereby meeting the general 
expection of " sleighing before Thanksgiving." Like 
all genuine New England towns Gilead made much 
of this annual festival, not only by family reunions 
and feasting, but by attending public religious serv- 
ice. So this year, closing as it was in national 
distress, the people were called to make public and 
private acknowledgment of their " manifold mer- 
cies." It was well that they were bidden so to do, 
for every thing conspired to turn their thoughts in 
an opposite channel. 

The "union service" was to be held this year 
in the brown church, and, by regular rotation, it 
became the duty of the Rev. G. Harmon Phelps to 
preach. 

Our young friend was nearly distracted. As once 
before stated, he was from New Jersey, and he 
steadfastly persisted in " discouraging " the war. A 
fast-day discourse he could have extemporized at a 
moment's notice, but after several days of exhaust- 
ing brain-work he found he was as far as ever from 
Thanksgiving. General McClellan had been re- 
moved from the command of the Army of the Po- 
tomac — a fact which had caused great anxiety and 
foreboding all through the North ; and the minister, 
who had looked upon him as a " chosen leader," 
couldn't imagine where the Lord was to find an- 
other man to take " Little Mac's " place. Could he 
have foreseen the terrible slaughter and defeat of 



134 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

Union soldiers which was to occur at Fredericks- 
burg in less than three weeks he would have given 
up his task in despair. As it was he gathered up 
his manuscript and took it down to his wife. She 
groaned inwardly when she saw his cloud-capped 
brow and fluttering notes ; but, having married him 
" for better, for worse," she showed no sign of 
distress when he coolly brushed her sewing out 
of the arm-chair and sat down. 

" I want to read you what I have jotted down for 
next Thursday, Letty," he began. " May be you 
can tell what ails it. It isn't very cheerful, I admit ; 
but what there is to be cheerful over I can't see." 

As he read, pausing occasionally to explain un- 
developed points, she grew more and more per- 
plexed. It would never do to preach such lugubri- 
ous stuff to modern Puritans and patriots, she was 
sure ; but it was very hard to tell her husband so. 
He had a peculiar habit — it must have been pecul- 
iar — of clinging to his opinions with all the energy 
of his nature; and she had to practice a diplomacy 
she did not admire to bring about any change which 
to her practical common sense seemed desirable. 

" There, " said he, after he had finally " perorated " 
the government into a strait between Scylla and 
Charybdis, " how's that for a Thanksgiving dis- 
course ? The people will feel more like taking 
wormwood than roast turkey when I get through, 
wont they ? Speak right out, Letty." 

" We-ell," and Mrs. Phelps thoughtfully smoothed 
a seam while her eyes kindled as she set her thoughts 
in order, " since you have suggested it, Harmon, I 
must say it seems more like Lamentations than 



MRS. PHELPS'S THANKSGIVING SERMON 135 

Psalms. Now, if you stood at my angle you would 
see a great deal to be thankful for, and you would 
lay that sermon aside for a — for a — well, for Mr. 
Slocum's funeral occasion perhaps." She looked up, 
and, the merry twinkle of her eyes proving conta- 
gious, there followed a hearty laugh, which was a 
great advantage every way. 

"You are unmerciful, Letty ; but go on. What 
do you see from your angle? " and the minister be- 
gan to clip the first leaf of his " lamentation " with 
her shining scissors. 

Mrs. Phelps's face flushed, but she began bravely : 
" Why, I see great cause for rejoicing in the patriot- 
ism of our Northern States. Many of our soldiers 
don't understand much more about political expe- 
dients and sectional questions than I do, but they 
know the country is in danger, and are willing to 
risk every thing in its defense. This is old, I know, 
but it seems to me it will bear repeating just now ; 
for if you can make the people feel that they are a 
part of a loyal whole they will be strengthened by 
it. Secondly, I should enlarge upon the record this 
town has made, which certainly is remarkable, and 
just pile up the references and illustrations until 
every body is full of gratitude and pride. And 
while they were thinking of the boys away down in 
Virginia and in Washington forts and out in places 
of danger I should just tell them to take care of 
those that were left behind, and give them thanks- 
giving cheer all the long cold winter. I'd tell them, 
too, how grateful they ought to be that this part of the 
country is undisturbed. Our churches and schools are 
open, as usua 1 !, our abundant harvests have been gath- 



130 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

ered in peace, and we are really free from the horrors 
of war as experienced in the South. And above all, 
Harmon, show the people that this is a war for the 
right — for liberty ; that it is God's war against the 
sins of our nation. And if you must speak of 
McClellan — and feeling as you do I suppose you will 
— don't be blue over him. God has a man for the 
place, and he will find him, though all the sons of 
Jesse pass in review and are rejected." 

Frightened by her own intense feeling, and fearing 
she had said too much, Mrs, Letty laid her hand 
timidly upon her husband's shoulder and added in 
an apologetic tone, " Now, perhaps I've said too 
much, but you— you started me." 

Her husband kissed her hand humbly as he replied, 
" I licensed you as an exhorter, but lo, and behold ! 
you are a full-fledged preacher! Don't say a word, 
yeu are a regular Deborah ! I begin to feel your 
courage in my finger-tips. Yes, honestly, Letty, 
your angle gives a better view than mine — for a 
Thanksgiving discourse — and your ideas are very 
good indeed — for a woman." 

This was a wonderful concession, and " Deborah " 
was wise enough to make no further comments. 
When, a few minutes later, her husband stole away 
to his study looking very much like a man with 
an idea, she smiled happily and brushed up the 
fragments of the " funeral sermon " from the car- 
pet. 

" What's come over your husband, Sister Phelps? " 
inquired Esquire Fletcher, shaking her hand warmly 
after the service on Thanksgiving day. " He's given 
us a regular, straight, encouraging kind of a sermon, 



MA'S. PHELPS'S THANKSGIVING SERMON. 137 

Tell him I believe he was inspired. It was just 
what we needed, just what we needed!" And the 
good man's face shone with genuine feeling. 

The congregation had been unusually large, and 
many were prepared to sympathize with the senti- 
ments they expected the young minister to advance. 
He had more than once given them reason to call 
him a conservative ; but if he enjoyed that reputation 
he destroyed it forever by the fresh, hopeful, and 
exceedingly practical discourse which revived and 
strengthened all who listened that bright cold No- 
vember day in '62. 

All sorts of benevolent projects and charitable 
impulses received a new inspiration, and no sooner 
was the benediction pronounced than a sort of 
informal business meeting was inaugurated upon 
that basis. 

In the absence of bulletin-boards and daily papers 
such a gathering takes the place of both, and 
one " not to the maner born " would be surprised 
to see what could be accomplished between the pews 
and outer church door. On this peculiar occasion 
Mrs. Plumley grasped Miss Hancock as soon as the 
proprieties would admit to arrange with her for the 
packing of boxes to be sent to " the boys" before 
Christmas ; while Esther Steele, who stood at her 
elbow, nearly forgot to beg for "just one day's help 
in making over a dress," so absorbed did she be- 
come in the plans of these energetic women. 

Meanwhile Abram was quietly busy among the 
young people, enlisting their sympathies in Mrs. 
Smith's behalf, whose corn needed husking, and 
whose home force was quite unequal, in his opinion, 



138 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

to the task. In less than ten minutes he had pledged 
eight young ladies and as many young men and 
boys to serve their country by giving a long even- 
ing to her interests. It was stated on good authority 
throughout Gilead that " Abram Steele had lost his 
reputation;" but for one thus bereft he seemed to 
have a very potent influence, never failing to secure 
plenty of followers in any project. 

At the same time Mr. Douglas was circulating 
among the older people, reminding them that it 
was nearly time for their " annual donation visit." 
His " brethren " were quite ready to respond, for 
had not their minister covered himself and the 
white church with honor? Before he left the place 
a committee was appointed and a notice written 
for insertion in the next issue of the Standard. 

Several lonely women who anticipated a sorrowful 
day were surprised by invitations to dinner, and 
Esquire Fletcher surprised himself by remembering 
Corporal Follinsbee's little brood and sending them 
by Hiel's willing hands a basket of his finest apples 
and a pound of toothsome confectionery. But we 
cannot follow all the influences that were set in 
motion that day, a part of which were certainly 
strengthened or suggested by the sermon. 

" Did I expound your sentiments satisfactorily 
to-day, Letty? " asked the minister, as they reached 
home late in the evening after enjoying the hospi- 
tality of a parishioner. 

" Your sermon was excellent, sir ; you must know 
that, for I saw the people smiling and shaking hands 
with you. Tell me what they said, if you dare ! " 

There was no direct reply to this until Mr, Phelps 



MRS. PHELPS'S THANKSGIVING SERMON. 139 

had built a fire in the little sitting-room stove and 
arrayed himself in dressing-gown and slippers. 
Then, while the flames went roaring and dancing 
up the chimney, the young couple sat down for a 
few moments to enjoy the coziness of their own 
hearth-stone, and he said : 

" They liked the sermon, Letty, because it was 
encouraging, I think ; and then — well, I may as well 
admit that they thought it indicated a change in my 
sentiments. And all the credit belongs to you, my 
dear. No, don't protest ; you know very well that 
I was your mouth-piece to-day, At first I was a 
little spiteful about it ; but from your angle I saw 
some views that affected me strangely. I wasn't 
brought up to look at slavery as New England peo^ 
pie do, and I must confess my sympathies were with 
the chivalry of the South ; but lately I have begun 
to question my own position, and concluded that as 
I am in New England I might as well do as the 
New Englanders do ; " and he laughed in some 
confusion, for his wife was looking at him very ear- 
nestly, and her eyes were sometimes inconveniently 
keen. 

"You mean that you believe at last in the Con- 
stitution as it was, is, and ever shall be. You mean 
that you are a newly converted patriot, and you are 
sorry you haven't struck a blow for the Union 
before, and that from this time forth your pulpit 
shall be — " 

" Divided with my wife," interrupted her hus- 
band. 

She shook her head and placed her hand over his 
lips. 



140 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

" I don't want a pulpit ; but if I had one in these 
days I wouldn't dare preach any thing but liberty 
to the captive and the opening of prison doors to 
those who are bound," said she, solemnly. 

" Amen ! " responded the minister. 

It was not long before the plans arranged that 
day matured successfully. The " husking-party " 
took Mrs. Smith by storm, and to the unspeakable 
delight of the children turned the discouraging 
heaps of corn into bushels of golden ears ready for 
market. The young people also carried with them 
so much good cheer, so many songs and stories and 
friendly words, that their visit lasted, in a sense, all 
winter, and brightened many a cold, windy evening 
when the family was " snow-bound." 

The "donation visit" also became a reality. It 
was held in the white church on Christmas eve, and 
was counted a brilliant success, although by some 
strange yet well-understood policy all the money 
collected was counted on the preacher's salary. If 
that particular " collection " had been preserved it 
would be far more valuable now than it seemed 
that night when it was tied up in Mr. Douglas's red 
bandanna for safe-keeping. It was a time when 
silver currency, like some people, had " fled to Can- 
ada; " at least such was the popular belief, and gov- 
ernment had provided nothing, as yet, to take its 
place. Scrip was beginning to circulate, but there 
were also postage-stamps, single and in little en- 
velopes, " tokens " in the semblance of a one-cent 
piece, and a great many notes issued by business 
firms, which were called " shin-plasters." A ten-cent 
postage-stamp in a little brass frame was another 



MRS. PHELPS'S THANKSGIVING SERMON. 141 

curious device of the times to be found in that won- 
derful collection ; and some impecunious individual 
slipped in several army buttons. With true Yankee 
persistence the people were bound to " make 
change," honestly if they could, dishonestly if 
they must. " But the meanest thing," said Benjie 
Steele, after the affair was all over, " was what Rast 
Slocum did. He put in one postage-stamp — just 
one — and it had been used on a letter ! Yes, sir ! 
and then he sat down and eat a dollar supper." 
Through Benjie's unsolicited efforts this fact was 
widely circulated ; but about ten days later it was 
discovered that Rast had been more generous than 
was apprehended; for, while the minister had not 
been enriched in basket or in store by his munifi- 
cence, he had given the measles to every body who 
was capable of accepting them, Benjie himself be- 
ing one of the ungrateful recipients. This disease, 
so thoroughly distributed, diverted the energies of 
Gilead into a new channel, wherein was displayed 
the skill of the two physicians, many mothers, and 
our friend Miss Hancock. 



142 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER XII. 

THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION. 

u T NEVER really expected I'd live to see such 
A a document as this in print," said Mr. Steele, as 
he polished his spectacles and unfolded the Stand- 
ard of January 9, 1863, containing the full text of 
the Emancipation Proclamation, which gave free- 
dom to more than three millions of slaves ! With 
intense satisfaction his eyes ran down the col- 
umn until he found and read aloud with empha- 
sis, "' And by virtue of the power, and for the pur- 
pose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all per- 
sons held as slaves within the said designated States 
and parts of States are and henceforward shall be 
free!'" He paused, with one finger upon the 
words, to ejaculate, " Praise the Lord ! How the 
old saints and martyrs must have felt when the 
news reached them up in the New Jerusalem ! " 
" You don't know as they've heard of it yet." 
Uncle Rufus made this remark. It is sometimes 
inconvenient to pause long enough to introduce a 
character; but in this case one word is sufficient 
— he was a controversialist. He stood in front of 
the fire-place, his coat-tails judiciously parted and 
held out of harm's way while his broad back rejoiced 
in the heat which seemed to go roaring up the 
broad chimney when it should have been warming 



THE EMANCIPA TION PROCLAMA TlON. 143 

the corners of the room. Uncle Rufus was short 
and stout, with gray hair rising perversely from his 
forehead. His eyebrows were thick and beetling, 
his under-lip prominent, and, better than meat and 
drink, he loved an argument. Hence, no sooner did 
Mr. Steele, in the fullness of his spiritual faith, refer 
to saints and angels than he drew his eyebrows to 
a more roof-like projection and planted his feet 
more firmly upon the braided rug before the fire- 
place as he exclaimed, " You don't know as they've 
heard of it yet." 

" I can't think but what they knew when the 
chains was broke, Brother Rufus. Probably they 
haint worried as I have since last September, fearin' 
'twouldn't come true after all ; but they knew — 
bless ye, of course they did." 

"You Methodists take things for granted which 
concern the heavenly world," said Uncle Rufus, his 
voice growing loud. " If — if saints and martyrs 
rejoice over the proclamation, then it follows that 
they've sorrowed over slavery heretofore. But this 
contradicts the Scriptur' statement that there's no 
sorrow in heaven ! " and in pure admiration of his 
own logic Uncle Rufus balanced himself upon his 
toes only to settle back to his old position more 
firmly. 

" I don't suppose there is sorrow there such as 
we have here," responded Mr. Steele; "but I can't 
help thinkin' they've known up there all about this 
slavery blot and about the war; and I wouldn't a 
mite wonder if the strongest angel there is amongst 
'em was sent down to stiddy Abraham Lincoln's 
hand when he writ this." 



144 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

Uncle Rufus gave a snort of opposition. 

"You forget the exceedin' sinfulness of war, 
which proves to high heaven the unworthiness of 
, us poor human beings. There should be peace in- 
stid of war and bloodshed." 

" There couldn't have been without a compromise 
with sin," said Mr. Steele, shaking his gray head 
sadly. " As things turned what could a President 
do but what Lincoln has done ? May be you noticed 
this, Brother Rufus: 'And upon this act, sincerely 
believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the 
Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the 
considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious 
favor of Almighty God.' There aint any consait 
about it. He's done the square thing, and looks to 
see God and man stand by him." 

" 1 don't say he's done wrong ; I don't say he's 
done right; " and Uncle Rufus's eyes grew a little 
fierce. " I do say he may be honest and make a 
big blunder. I do say I tremble for the future ; for 
a man's heart may be soft while his judgment aint 
safe to go by. Gover'munt's got a big job on hand 
to take care of 'em. Can she do it ? I ask you, can 
she do it ?" 

Mr. Steele laughed good-naturedly. " We shall 
see, it's likely, one of these days. We'd ought to 
know by this time that there's ways and means un- 
beknown to us." 

Uncle Rufus shook his head dismally and pro- 
ceeded to state, with the forefinger of his right 
hand beating time upon the palm of his left, how 
the President's act was hazardous and premature, 
how the colored people were likely to abuse their 



THE EMANCIPA TION PROCLAMA TIOiV. 145 

freedom, and how, after all, the nation would be 
destroyed by those it sought to save. 

" I see Ben Butler has some such notion," re- 
sponded Mr. Steele, taking up his paper again and 
reading : " ' The institution cursed of God, which 
has taken its last refuge here, in his providence will 
be rooted out as the tares from the wheat, although 
the wheat be torn up with it.' That's what he says 
down in Orleans when he made his farewell speech. 
Nobody doubts but some of the wheat '11 be tore up 
— North and South. Haint we seen it down there 
to Fredericksburg ? But it's my opinion the nation '11 
be left." 

" That's what I tell Rufus," remarked his wife, a 
plump, happy-faced woman, who sat rocking back 
and lorth in the corner. " I tell him if he'd stop 
argufyin' and go to pray in' he'd be lots happier. 
But if you'll believe it, Brother Benjamin, if he don't 
have any body else to talk to he argufies with me." 

And at the manifest absurdity of such a waste of 
time she laughed so heartily that her husband was 
obliged to smile ; which weakness on his part was 
equal to a defeat. He was one of those whose opin- 
ions are always hot if not heavy, and such was his 
temperament that during the war he lived in a tem- 
pest of discussion. Every country town had at 
least one such pessimistic orator, and some were 
blessed with a circle of similar kindred spirits large 
enough to surround the stove in the store and 
plan campaigns for the entire army. And yet 
Uncle Rufus was a patriot, and had sent one son to 
the front. His misgivings were those of a man 
who could not see how good was to come out of 
10 



146 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

evil, or how success was to follow the perplexities 
of those gloomy days. It was quite a relief to the 
family when his visit was over and the worthy 
couple departed in their high-backed green sleigh 
to the music of slow-tinkling bells. 

" Father, why didn't you give it to him harder?" 
called Benjie from the bedroom where measles still 
kept him a prisoner. 

" Why, Benjie," said Mary, reproachfully, " do 
you think father would dispute with Uncle Rufus?" 

" I would, now, you better believe. He no busi- 
ness to talk so discouraging. O, I heard him ! It's 
awful mean, now;" and Benjie's speckled face 
glowed with righteous indignation. 

"Such talk wont spread like measles. There's 
nobody foolish enough to mind it," said Abram, 
soothingly. 

Benjie gave a turn and toss that tumbled the bed- 
clothes hopelessly. 

" I guess you don't know how blue it made me 
feel ; " and his voice faltered suspiciously. " If any 
body else comes while I'm sick I hope they'll know 
enough to talk sensible." 

In response, seemingly, to this very reasonable 
hope came Miss Hancock the next morning, just as 
Benjie was transferred to the sitting-room lounge 
well wrapped in shawls and with a green paper shade 
over his eyes. 

" I thought I never should get here, Esther," said 
she, cheerily, as she stamped the snow from her 
feet ; " but the measles have given me close work 
for a week, I can tell you. So many sick at once, 
you know. Of course the soldiers' families must be 



THE EMANCIPA TION PROCLAMA TION. 147 

looked after, and I've tried to be faithful — a day 
here and a day there, and nights wherever help was 
most needed." 

By this time she was ready for work, having pro- 
duced thimble, pincushion, shears, and tape-measure 
with workmanlike rapidity. The family felt the 
charm of her presence at once. Esther's old brown 
dress which had looked so utterly hopeless all at 
once grew more promising as she laid it, nicely 
ripped and pressed, at Miss Hancock's elbow. Ben- 
jie, who had fretted and fumed like a full-grown 
man because he wasn't allowed to read, beamed 
with good nature ; and Mr. Steele, kept in-doors by 
his lameness, laid aside his paper as though he ex- 
pected something more entertaining than that. 

*' I don't know how I can settle down to sewing 
to-day on account of that proclamation. Why, Mr. 
Steele," said she, earnestly, " it has uplifted this 
whole nation. I have felt ever since I read it as 
though I could take a timbrel and sing the song of 
Miriam. Not that it's the end, but it's the begin- 
ning of the end. Every body feels so. The stage- 
driver said as we came along this morning that it 
was the good air made people so happy, and I said 
in return that 'twas furnished by government. I 
don't think he understood what I meant really." 

" Where 've you been taking care of measle cases, 
Miss Hancock? " asked Mrs. Steele, as she carefully 
deposited the last of a half dozen pumpkin-pies in 
the oven. 

" First with Mrs. Follinsbee, last Sunday night 
and Monday. Little Hi was very sick, but gained 
so fast Monday that I left and went over to see Vic 



148 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

Armstrong's little Nell. The child was comfortably 
sick, but poor Vic was wild with fright. She's — well, 
no matter about that. Then I got the young 
doctor to take me up to Mr. Hickey's. We tipped 
over only three times on the way. She is down 
with pleurisy, and the little girl with measles, of 
course. I stayed with her until Wednesday night, 
then went to Mrs. Smith's." 

"In that snow-storm?" " How did you ever get 
there?" asked Esther and Benjie in the same 
breath. 

" Well, Mr. Hickey had a letter for her from 
Washington ; and so, toward night — you know the 
storm was over at sunset — he took his shovel and 
said he was going across the ridge — through the 
pasture, you know — to deliver it and see how they 
were. So I followed on. I could step in his tracks 
nicely, and, to tell the truth, I wore a pair of John 
Henry's old boots." 

Benjie laughed heartily as his vivid imagination 
pictured the scene, and Miss Hancock joined him, 
also adding: 

" I never followed a man so closely before in all 
my life. Well, we found that poor woman with the 
four children sick in bed and not a soul to do a 
thing. The snow was drifted to the top of the well- 
curb and 'way up to the kitchen windows, and there 
wasn't a sign of a path to the barn ; and she was 
rigged up in her husband's old buffalo coat, his 
boots, cap, and mittens, trying to shovel out." 

"Glad to see you, wasn't she?" asked Benjie. 

" Glad ! She dropped her shovel and broom and 
took me in by the fire, and then she broke down 



THE EMANCIPA TION PROCLAMA TION. 149 

and cried as much as five minutes, with her head on 
my shoulder. She hadn't heard from her husband 
and the boys for two weeks, and the children were 
all pretty sick. Byron had been wild with fever all 
night before, so she hadn't slept a wink ; and when 
she saw the snow-drifts she said she felt almost dis- 
couraged, but hoped I would excuse her for giving 
way to such feelings. I cried, too, to keep her 
company, and thought to myself that any woman 
who could be snowed in with four sick children and 
hear the wind rattling the windows and howling 
down the chimney all night and not get nervous 
would be a strange creation. Well, Mr. Hickey 
broke out all her. paths and fed the cattle while she 
was milking ; and the letter brought good news, and 
I took care of the children that night, and the 
measles all came out beautiful. So yesterday morn- 
ing when I left her the world looked quite bright 
again. She's been spinning a lot of the nicest yarn, 
Mrs. Steele, just as soft and even ; so if you know 
of any body that wants to buy send them up 
there." 

" Does she do all her work — outdoor work and 
all?" asked Esther, curiously. 

" Every thing but threshing. She and the girls 
have sawed and split a nice lot of wood, and it is 
piled elegantly. The money that comes from the 
army would be enough to pay for having all these 
hard things done, but the children will want to go 
away to school, so she saves every cent of it. O, I 
can't see why she isn't just as brave and grand a 
woman as my great-great-aunt who killed two In- 
dians with an ax when they were trying to break 



750 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

down the door ! It's the real old Puritan foremother 
spirit, if her name is Smith." 

" Smith by marriage, that's all. She was a Pea- 
body, from York State," said Mr. Steele, musingly. 

Miss Hancock filled her mouth with pins just then 
and proceeded to fit a lining to Esther's waist — a 
process which Benjie watched with apprehension. 

"That aint the way men have their coats cut," 
said he. The pins came out immediately, for Miss 
Hancock began to laugh. 

" Foolish notion to use your mouth for a pin- 
cushion, isn't it?" said she. " I know it's tempting 
Providence. No, Benjie, be thankful you're a man 
and can have your coat cut by a pattern that gives 
plenty of room. Some dress-makers use patterns, 
but I like the old way best, so I pin on the lining 
and cut it to fit before I touch the material. I wish 
you had a new dress to make, Esther, instead of this, 
for I'm going to have good luck with your shoul- 
ders, I know." 

" 'Sh ! " whispered Esther. " I wanted one so 
much, but Abram is short of money this winter for 
some reason, and I wouldn't say one word about it. 
Mother thinks this will be as nice as new. O, dear ! " 
and Esther heaved a long sigh as she glanced rather 
contemptuously at her " old brown." 

" Never mind, you always look well in any thing. 
If it wasn't for wearing such large hoops one could 
make over dresses much better ; but there it is, six 
breadths, calico width, in the skirt, and all in plain 
sight — faded places, darns, and all. You might as 
well try to hide a rent in an umbrella. I'm really 
tired of hoops." 



THE EMANCIPATk)N PROCLAMATION. 151 

" Why, Miss Hancock ! " laughed Esther, " I 
wouldn't be hired to go without." 

" O, of course we must follow the fashion, 
but—" 

" I wish you'd talk so I can hear," said Benjie, 
fidgeting on the lounge. 

" We will," replied Miss Hancock, graciously ; 
"I was just about to say to Esther that it would 
be an advantage if we didn't need so much material 
to make a dress now, every thing is so high-priced. 
Common calico is twenty cents a yard. Still, we 
must be thankful we don't have to pay Southern 
prices. According to the papers cotton cloth is 
two or three dollars a yard, and coffee about four 
dollars a pound." 

" Poor folks will have to drink cold water at that 
rate," said Esther. 

" Makes me think what a contraband told the 
soldiers when he reached our army. He said the 
rebels had ' plenty of nuffin '," added Benjie. 

" Spectators '11 do all they can to keep prices 
'way up, and cotton goods must be scurce, of 
course ; but I'm thinkin' the proclamation's sure 
to bring things to a head afore long," said Mr. 
Steele. 

" That's just what Mr. Hickey says, but I don't 
know ; we must hope so. That reminds me, Benjie, 
of something that happened yesterday. I rode down 
the hill with Mr. Hickey in his long pung with his 
grist, and when we reached old gentleman Dow's 
he came out and begged a ride to the post-office, 
his rheumatism being bad ; so he got in and soon 
begun to talk about the proclamation. You know 



152 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

him, Mr. Steele, and can guess how he went on, 
abusing the President and cabinet right and left. 
Mr. Hickey is a pretty patient man, but he couldn't 
stand that ; so when the old man went so far as to 
swear at Lincoln he reined his horse up and says, 
'Well, neighbor, I'll have to ask you to get out 
here. My boys are in the army, and they think 
every thing of Lincoln, and so do I. He's God's 
man, and I wont hear him abused.' Old gentle- 
man Dow was astonished, I tell you ; but he man- 
aged to get out and hobble into Mr. Gray's yard, 
and there he stood shaking his fist — poor man — as 
we drove away." 

Eenjie clapped his hands. 

" Good for Mr. Hickey! " said he. "I'll write the 
boys about that." 

" Perhaps I'll be able to tell them the story be- 
fore many weeks," was Miss Hancock's quiet re- 
joinder. 

Esther turned toward her in surprise. 

"You don't mean it, do you? Are you really in 
earnest ? " 

" Of course I am. Mrs. Lovejoy and I hope to 
go in the spring, sure." 

"Who is Mrs. Lovejoy? " and " Haven't you got 
enough to do here ? " and " We really can't let you 
go," came in the same breath from the family. 

" Mr. Steele, you must know Isaac Lovejoy ; he 
died late in the fall. Well, it's his widow. She 
was a school-teacher, and a good deal younger than' 
Isaac," replied Miss Hancock. 

" Yes, O, yes! I knew Isaac. We was young to- 
gether; but he bought a farm in Jeffers. Made 



THE EMANCIPA TIOM PROCLAMA TION. 153 

money too, they say. Left a good property, didn't 
he ? " 

" Yes, he left all he had," said Miss Hancock, 
dryly. 

Mr. Steele smiled. 

" I've understood he was tight's the bark to a 
tree." 

"Why, Mr. Steele, that's no comparison. The 
bark of a tree gives a chance for growth inside, 
doesn't it ? Well, his soul never had any chance 
at all." 

" Why, why, I guess you didn't admire Isaac 
much; church member, wasn't he? Think he's gone 
to heaven, don't you?" asked Mr. Steele, a little 
dismayed by her earnestness. 

Again for an instant Miss Hancock held her 
shears poised as she replied : 

" Perhaps he did, but I can't help thinking he's a 
pretty small pattern for an angel;" and then, aware 
that she had shocked her good friends, she pro- 
ceeded calmly, " I was there a good deal, making 
his clothes — he always got half a yard of cloth less 
than I told him to — and he grew smaller and 
smaller spiritually every year. If his suits had only 
been made for that part of him he could have 
scrimped half a yard without the least danger. He 
had the young doctor a few times because he was 
a homeopathist, and Isaac thought he wouldn't 
charge much for his medicine. One day he asked 
the doctor for his bill, and how he raged when he 
found he charged fifty cents a visit, same as old 
Dr. Snow ! ' Don't you get the water out of my 
well? and do you think I'll pay you for it?' says 



154 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

he. So he changed again, for he said when he paid 
for medicine he wanted it bitter enough to bring 
him up on his toes. Well, poor man, he's gone 
now, and the farm and stock and money in the 
banks fall to his wife. She says she wants to 
leave it all for a while and go down and help nurse 
the soldiers. O, she's pure gold — tried in the fire 
— and money in her hands will be used for the 
good of mankind. Yes, it will." 

Miss Hancock had allowed her tongue unusual 
freedom, for in it was the " law of kindness ; " but, 
as she was wont to say, she had " no patience with 
downright stinginess." 

In Mr. Steele's family she found a sympathy and 
appreciation lacking elsewhere for her pet theo- 
ries, but checked herself like a wise woman even 
while the spice of gossip was most tempting, much 
to Benjie's disappointment. 

" Let the dead rest in peace," said she ; " let us 
hope blessings came to Isaac as they did to his 
wife when he went. At any rate, she has the 
money now, and we are going together where it 
will help the poor suffering boys." 

And so again the conversation turned into the 
usual channel as her future prospects were can- 
vassed. 

" One good thing about your going is that prob- 
ably you wont have to stay long," said Mr. Steele, 
confidently ; " for I do think the rebellion must 
yield, now the cause is removed. And it's good to 
believe that the nations of the earth '11 stand by 
Lincoln's proclamation." 




"it's a telegram; prob'ly somebody's killed. 

Page 155. 



A FALLEN LLERO. 155 



CHAPTER XIII. 

A FALLEN HERO. 

A BOY came riding into the village one even- 
ing early in April, his horse bespattered with 
mud ; and, drawing rein before the post-office, in- 
quired for Judge Plumley. Mr. Barstow hurried to 
the door to ask, " What's the news? " 

" Don't know," replied the messenger. " It's a 
telegram; prob'ly somebody's killed;" and he 
urged his tired horse up the street toward the 
judge's pleasant home. 

Within an hour the news had passed from lip 
to lip that Captain Plumley, of the cavalry, had 
been shot and instantly killed ! He had been one 
of the first to enlist from Gilead in '61, and had 
been promoted from a private's position on account 
of his bravery. Other soldiers who were well known 
all through that region had fallen among the early 
recruits; they had fallen at Lee's Mills and Will- 
iamsburg, at Golden's Farm, Savage Station, and 
White Oak Creek, and others had died in hospitals ; 
but Charlie Plumley was the first taken from the 
heart of the town. Every body had known and 
respected him and watched with commendable 
pride his career in the army. And now he was 
gone ! The curtains of his old home were lowered, 
crape fluttered from the door-knob, his father 



156 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

bowed his head in speechless sorrow, and his moth- 
er sat in her darkened room, empty-handed and 
alone, mourning for her first-born. And the people 
— undemonstrative by nature and habit- — passed to 
and fro with sad faces and spoke in low tones of 
their common loss. In the general eagerness to 
hear the particulars, the first letter, written by a 
comrade to Dr. Adams, was read in the post-office, 
where men had so often gathered with anxious 
faces to listen to news from the front. The young 
doctor sat upon a box and leaned his head upon 
his hand, almost overcome by what was to him no 
common grief, while he read as follows: 

" Captain Plumley came along past our tent about 
one in the morning of the first day of April and 
wanted all who had horses good for any thing to 
mount up as soon as possible, for they were going 
to catch Mosby. That was just what we wanted to 
do, and we were soon ready and on our way. They 
had left Drainsville and stopped at a plantation a few 
miles from there, where we found them about seven 
o'clock. 

" Captain Plumley took the lead with his com- 
pany, and I was one in the front set of fours, and 
therefore received their first fire, which came unex- 
pectedly to us all. We expected to surprise them, 
but found them mounted and ready to receive us. 
In the first fire Captain Plumley fell on my left 
with six balls through his body. They did not hit 
me that fire. They charged again, and some of the 
horses began to rear and pitch every way, and 
either with or without help to wheel around and 
run. Most of us who stood our ground were either 



A FALLEN HERO. 157 

killed or wounded. A rebel rode up toward me 
and we commenced firing at each other. He hit 
me twice, the first ball passing through my leg, and 
as the second passed through my thigh, I rolled off 
my horse without much exertion on my part, I as- 
sure you. As soon as I could I raised my head on 
my hand to see what was going on in other parts 
of the field. Every horse was turned and running 
for the woods. I then looked the other way and 
saw our good captain lying upon his face. I worked 
myself along to him and got there just as a rebel 
came to take his arms and mine. I asked him to 
help me turn him over on his back, which he did. 
He did not speak after I got to him. I held his 
head while he breathed his last, then laid a rail 
under it and made my way to a house which was a 
few rods off." 

The doctor paused, his voice shaken with emo- 
tion. After a moment's silence he said, " That is all. 
We know how he lived ; this tells how he died." 

Very quietly the little company dispersed, asking 
themselves, " Who will be the next to fall ?" 

A few days later the body of the brave captain 
was returned to the old home, and the day fol- 
lowing — a bright, clear spring day — his funeral was 
held in the brown church. Such gatherings were 
not rare in the early part of the war, but, alas ! there 
came a time when the dead heroes were buried far 
away from their kindred dust. It was a quiet crowd 
of mourners that came together, filling the pews, 
the aisles, the gallery, and the vestibule, many 
wearing tokens of bereavement, many who could 
sympathize with the stricken family. 



158 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

Within the altar was the casket containing the 
young captain's body. Upon it lay his cavalry hat, 
sword, and gloves, while over the lower part was 
thrown the flag for which he had died. The old pas- 
tor slowly ascended the pulpit-stairs accompanied 
by Mr. Phelps, the pastor of the other church. The 
music of the opening hymn filled the house, hushing 
the already subdued audience, and precious words of 
consolation from God's word were read. Then the 
young minister, with uplifted hand, said, "Let us 
pray." An instant's pause, and then came the words, 
" O, thou God of battles, thou Saviour of suffering 
humanity, draw very near us to-day." Thus far, and 
his voice failed, breaking into an irrepressible sob 
as he bowed his head upon the Bible. A wave of 
emotion passed through the audience, to which 
every heart seemed to respond. For a moment 
hard-faced men wept like children, and women 
sobbed aloud. All the days and nights of watching 
and waiting, all the hopes and fears and bereave- 
ments of the past and the dreaded uncertainties of 
the future, as connected with those perilous times, 
seemed condensed in that brief and bitter experi- 
ence. 

And yet there was in it an element of almost 
sacred tenderness which cannot be described. But 
this scene was only for a moment. Then again the 
voice of prayer was heard, gradually leading the 
congregation to the Source of comfort and strength. 
And this was the hour when Mr. Phelps began to 
understand fully the meaning of the " great con- 
test." As he listened to the old pastor's touching 
remarks his soul, melted into self-forgetfulness as 



A FALLEN HERO. 159 

never before, took upon itself a little of that burden 
which has rested and must ever rest upon those 
who help rid the world of evil. 

After the sad service was over a large part of the 
audience accompanied the friends to the grave-yard 
a half mile distant. Immediately following the 
hearse walked a young negro leading the captain's 
horse, with empty saddle in place, ready for the 
swift rider whose last charge had been made. The 
negro was a " contraband " who had found his way 
into camp and attached himself uninvited to the 
captain's service, making himself useful and finally 
indispensable. His tears that day fell freely, and he 
said, over and over, 

" I'se los' my good friend." 

And this was the "home-coming" of one of the 
"boys." Under the notice of his death which Miss 
Hancock placed in her quaint scrap-book she pasted 
this little clipping: 

" In the city, in the village, 

In the hamlet far away, 
Sit the mothers, watching, waiting, 

For their soldier-boys to-day. 
They are coming, daily coming. 

One by one and score by score, 
In their leaden casings folded, 

Underneath the flag they bore." 

"I almost envied Charlie to-day," said Abram, as 
Esther came to her favorite chair beside his desk 
after the excitement of the day was over. 

" O, no, don't say that!" and Esther looked at 
him sadly, for to her there had been nothing so ap- 
parent as the universal distress over what seemed a 
cruel sacrifice. 



160 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

" But he will always be counted with martyrs and 
heroes. And isn't it better to do something and 
die than to live and live until you forget how to en- 
joy or suffer?" 

" Abram Steele ! " said Esther, earnestly, " you 
talk as though you had outlived your usefulness. It 
isn't like you to say such things. If he went to war 
because it was his duty, and you stay here because 
it is your duty, what's the difference?" 

"That's the way I argue myself," said Abram, 
with a smile; "but I tell you, Esther, there's noth- 
ing harder than to live day after day and rejoice in 
doing what you don't like to do. There ! I've said 
it, and now I feel better. Generally I can be satis- 
fied, because nobody likes to shirk his duty ; but 
sometimes, like to-day, I feel actually leg-weary try- 
ing to be good. I'm like a baby crying when no- 
body knows what it wants. And there was Charlie 
— he fought, gathered all the struggle into a few 
minutes, and there he lay with a smile on his face 
like a conqueror." 

Esther's face glowed with sympathy for her de- 
sponding brother. 

" I know something about it, Abram. You will 
laugh, but it seems like a waking-up pain. You 
know when your foot is asleep it aches and tingles 
when it wakes up. I was telling Miss Hancock 
about it, and she understood and felt that way her- 
self. She said it was because of the war. I suppose 
she has a chance to forget it now she's got to work. 
Did I tell you ? Mrs. Phelps has had a letter, and 
they're in Washington, expecting to be sent to the 
front in a few days. I could have read it, but Mrs. 



A FALLEN HERO. 161 

Fletcher has it. Miss Hancock seems perfectly- 
happy and well, Mrs. Phelps says." 

" By the way, how did Mrs. Phelps seem to feel 
about her husband's breaking down so in the 
prayer?" asked Abram. 

" I don't think he broke down. Why, Abram, 
I think — well, I'm so glad he could ; and I really 
believe that's what made her look so exalted after 
the service." 

" O, I was glad, too ; but a few months ago 
Brother Phelps would have felt himself disgraced 
forever. He has changed wonderfully of late. It 
began with his Thanksgiving sermon, I think. 
Somebody was saying to-day that Elder Putnam's 
mantle must have fallen upon him." 

" It's good to think so," said Esther, heartily. 
" How glad our boys must be to have Mr. Putnam 
for their chaplain at last ! " 

"Ah! did that news come in Don's letter?" 

Esther glanced warningly toward the rest of the 
family gathered around the long table. 

" Yes. He said they had got him at last, and he 
was doing the soldiers ever so much good. But, 
Abram, you mustn't laugh at me. He doesn't 
write — they're just friendly letters. Of course as 
long as the Guards stay in camp they have lots of 
spare time. Probably after they're sent to the 
front—" 

Abram laughed, for Esther's face had been grow- 
ing rosier with every word, and he interrupted her. 

" O, yes, he will. He will write just the same. I 
only wish mother could be persuaded that he is all 
right and have a little sympathy for Mrs. Stanley." 
11 



162 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

" But, Abram," said Esther, anxious to change 
the subject, " seems to me you needn't talk about 
other people writing. Somebody must get volumes 
from you. I believe it's your postage that keeps 
you feeling so poor these days." 

For answer Abram handed his sister an agricult- 
ural paper, pointing to an article. 

" Read that," said he. 

" O, you want me to keep still now. I never read 
any thing in this paper but the stories and the 
housekeeper's corner." 

Nevertheless she read " A Plea for Shrubbery and 
Shade-trees," and a something in its construction, 
a something which reveals the personality of an au- 
thor, made her turn to Abram with a look of de- 
lighted surprise. 

"Why, you wrote it yourself! It sounds just 
like you. Who told you to? When did you begin ? 
Do they pay you for it ? " 

Abram laughed as he had not for weeks. It 
seemed so pleasant to tell his one little comfortable 
secret. 

" O, I began some time ago, first for the Stand- 
ard. Then King advised me to try this paper, and 
they pay — not very much, but enough to satisfy me 
for the present." 

Esther drew a long breath. 

" Isn't it grand to be a man and have so many 
ways to earn money ! I believe you're bound to be 
rich sometime. And, Abram, I've a good mind to 
tell you what I've been thinking of. Do you think 
I could teach school this coming summer? Mary 
is all the help mother will need, and of course she 



A FALLEN HERO. 163 

wont go to school herself — Mary has finished every- 
thing they teach here — so I'm not really needed ; 
and it would seem so good to earn something." 

" Why, that's a splendid plan ; " and Abram 
whirled around in his chair with sudden animation. 
" Let's see. You're eighteen, and people know 
you've had two terms in the academy at the Center. 
Yes, I'm sure you could. Had you thought where 
you'd like to teach? " 

"Yes, in the 'mountain district.' There's Vic 
Armstrong, you know, and that nice Mrs. Stubbs — " 

" Yes, and Mrs. Stanley," added Abram, with a 
smile. " I'll find out who the committee is and see 
him right away." 

Every dollar saved or earned meant much to 
Abram, and, although he was willing to bear the bur- 
den of debt alone, Esther's proposition seemed like 
very tangible sympathy ; and they continued to dis- 
cuss the subject with considerable enthusiasm. Mrs. 
Steele glanced toward them occasionally, wondering 
how they could have so soon forgotten the scenes 
of the afternoon. They had not forgotten ; but 
youth is strong and hopeful, and, in spite of tragic 
news and heartaches and tears and new-made graves, 
the spirit of those days was one of intense earnest- 
ness and action. 



164 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

ESTHER'S SCHOOL. 

BEFORE the "first Monday in June," which 
was the orthodox beginning for a country 
school in '63, Esther's certificate was lawfully se- 
cured, and she was engaged to teach twelve weeks 
in the mountain district. Mr. Stubbs, the commit- 
tee, agreed to pay her one dollar and a half per 
week, and she was to "board around." He did not 
fail to remind her that most beginners got but a 
dollar and a quarter, which inspired Esther with a 
most heroic resolution to work very hard and prove 
her right to such munificent wages. She was a 
happy girl when on that first morning she entered 
the trim little school-house with its newly washed 
floor, its atmosphere fragrant with the odors of 
spruce and maple-boughs which decorated the 
walls, its seats occupied by twenty-four bright- 
eyed boys and girls — most of them barefoot — who 
bent upon her their silent scrutiny. She was sure 
this "double jury" could see how her palpitating 
heart interfered with the little opening speech she 
had so carefully prepared, and laughed in its sleeves 
over her awkwardness in " forming classes." Never 
was a girl more willing to receive counsel than was 
she, when, after the perplexities of the day were 
over, she climbed the hill through the woods to Mr. 



ESTHER'S SCHOOL. 165 

Stubbs's, where she was to board the first week. 
And he was glad to give it. 

" I don't s'pose you could find a loyaler deestrict 
in all Gilead than our'n," said he, as, minus coat 
and collar, he tilted back in his chair on the " front 
platform" after tea. "There's ten voters out of 
nineteen gone a'ready ; and that leaves desp'rate few 
men in case of a fire. And I don't s'pose there's an 
easier managed school in all Gilead than our'n. If 
you want to make the children think every thing of 
you just learn 'em to sing these 'ere war songs. It 
beats all how they can sing. That little Irene 
Wells is a regular bobolink, and Florry and Flo- 
rindy Gray aint fur behind. The master we had 
last winter said he never see any thing like it in his 
travels." 

As Esther, listened her eyes feasted upon the 
scene before her. The mountain district was a little 
settlement made within a few years by clearing the 
land at the foot of the mountain and up its sloping 
sides, and building little houses here and there, sev- 
eral of which were of logs ; so that while Esther was 
only two miles from her father's farm she was virt- 
ually in the "backwoods." Mr. Stubbs's house 
was rather more pretentious than most of the 
others, as it was painted white, and contained six 
rooms ; but its attractiveness was, after all, due to 
Mrs. Stubbs's care and neatness. She had a genius 
for home-making and housekeeping, and no one 
could step within the door without feeling it. Her 
rooms were sweetly clean, even to the kitchen-floor, 
made of white hard-wood, which the neighbors said 
was so smooth that flies couldn't walk across it 



166 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

without slipping down ! Every thing seemed to 
know its place and stay there, from the almanac 
on its nail under the clock to the patch-work 
holder, which always hung close to the turkey's 
wing with its red flannel shield, answering to the 
modern dust-brush. Mrs. Stubbs was also a wonder- 
ful cook. 

" What kind of flour do you use, and where do 
you get your spices?" her neighbors would ask, 
viewing her puffy biscuits and fragrant tea-cakes 
with jealous eyes. 

" Same as you," she always replied, with a cheery 
laugh. 

But her care-taking was by no means confined to 
'the house. Her front yard was her pride and 
delight. It was bounded on the south and west by 
the roadway, with grass growing between the ruts, 
on the east by a rhythmical brook, and on the 
north by primitive forest, a part of which was Mr. 
Stubbs's " wood-lot." When a clearing for the new 
house was made Mrs. Stubbs had begged her hus- 
band to leave a part of the stumps for her. The 
tops of these she had excavated and filled with rich 
soil, and all over them were now growing morn- 
ing-glories and nasturtiums — she said " sturtions " — 
and myrtle and creepers of all kinds, even to a lux- 
uriant hop-vine, which climbed up a sort of liberty- 
pole arrangement and threw its tendrils out to a 
neighboring tree. On the side near the woods she 
left tangles of blackberry-bushes and tall dogwood 
shrubs, while a little farther along were dewberry- 
vines, checker-berry, and bunch plums, with 
all their original flavor. She took special pride, 



ESTHER'S SCHOOL. 167 

however, in her flower-beds on either side of the 
path leading to the front door. These were' in 
the form of circles and fat hearts ; and in them 
flourished hollyhocks and bachelor's-buttons, tiger- 
lilies, honeysuckles, marigolds, fly-catchers, peonies, 
china-asters, and bunch pinks, which she called 
" poor relations," because of their tendency to wan- 
der in " by and forbidden ways," and appear sud- 
denly where they were not wanted. But time fails 
to mention all the dear old-fashioned flowers that 
helped make up a display which was so natural and 
wild in its setting that it seemed as if the seeds 
must have been dropped from above by some lavish, 
careless hand. We are aware that Mr. Stubbs and 
Esther have been lost sight of in this flowery inter- 
lude, but he has been talking all the while, and she 
dutifully listening, even while her eyes caressed each 
flower and bud and sturdy plant. 

" Make 'em feel good where you go to board," 
said he. " Talk about the scholars as though they 
was all bright as buttons. Makes parents feel good 
when you praise their childern." 

" What if they are really stupid and troublesome ? " 
asked Esther. 

" That would be bad, of course ; but it never helps 
matters none to tell them things. You can't please 
'em unless you seem interested in their scholars, and 
if you don't please 'em you can't do 'em any good." 

" I'm afraid you're a little deceptive, father," said 
Mrs. Stubbs, who, having finished her household 
duties, had seated herself near them, knitting in 
hand. 

" We're all deceptive when we try to make things 



108 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

better 'n they be, hey ? Stop rootin' 'round your old 
stumps, then, tryin' to make b'lieve they're piles of 
posies. Stop rootin', I tell you ; " and at his delight 
in catching his wife in her own trap he laughed until 
he nearly fell from his chair. 

" I think you are very kind, Mr. Stubbs, to tell 
me about the children and their parents," said 
Esther. " I'm sure it will be a help to me. I 
wasn't really acquainted with any one over here 
except Mrs. Stanley and Vic Armstrong." 

"Poor Mis' Stanley; she seems kind o' pinin' 
since Donald went away, and no wonder. I know 
how it is since my Theodore went. As for N'xztoxy 
Armstrong, if she would go to work and make 
something of herself while Joe's gone may be the 
Lord would forgive her for the time she's wasted 
so far;" and Mrs. Stubbs sighed deeply as she 
narrowed off the thumb of the mitten she was 
knitting. 

Esther was very glad to use Mr. Stubbs's hints in 
managing her school. After the first week's drill, 
she could, by a tap of the bell and giving the "key- 
note," bring every child to an erect position and 
start such a volume of melody on " Rally 'Round the 
Flag, Boys," or "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys 
are Marching," or old " America," as would make 
the woods ring. 

"You're very polite to let us sing so good," said 
little Josephine Labrique, with her pretty French 
accent, as she leaned against Esther's lap one 
noon. 

"You mean she's kind," corrected Irene Wells. 

" Yes, and I love you, too," said Flora Durhurst. 



ESTHER'S SCHOOL. 169 

" I wrote my pa a letter last night, an' I told him 
how you teached us ' Tramp, Tramp.' ' 

" Where is your father? " asked Esther. 

Flora stopped eating her bread and butter and 
looked at the teacher in blank amazement. 

" He's in the war, of course ; 'way down before 
Vicksburg, my pa is." 

" My big brother's gone. He's down there, too," 
said Jasmine Ripley, a tall, slender girl, taller, in 
fact, than her teacher. 

" My father's been killed. I tell you 'taint very 
nice to see your mother cryin' and think you can't 
see your father any more; " and Ira Grover shook 
his head soberly as he advanced to the desk. 

Little Bub Spinner, who was Esther's " bad boy," 
came hopping forward at this instant and spoke 
up loudly, " I guess they wont kill my Uncle 
John. He's too big. We're going to send him a 
box. He lives in a tent an' fires guns, but he wants 
to go in a battle. I wish 't I could go in a battle. 
My uncle wrote some poetry once, an* it was in the 
paper. I say it sometimes when folks tease me to." 

Bub had been in constant motion thus far, as 
though his body was a little machine which had to 
hop or swing itself at every sentence ; but now, 
without any special " teasing," he assumed the per- 
pendicular, brought his little toes together upon a 
crack in the floor, jerked a funny bow toward Esther 
and recited : 

" "Tis of a noble lady that my story shall be told, 
Who among our valiant soldiers was the boldest of the bold ; 
How she plead and teased our colonel till he was forced to yield. 
And let her share our dangers upon the tented field. 



170 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

" For miles upon the dusty road she traveled all the way, 
While many of the sterner sex were forced down to lay. 
Here in her home of canvas, not over eight feet square, 
She managed all so nicely they'd plenty room to spare. 

"And when the order came to move, upon her noble steed, 

With her husband 'midst the skirmishers Mrs. Selwyn took the lead. 

Arrived in camp at Seneca, she had a palace made 

Of bushes, and, although they leaked, served very well for shade. 

" 'Twas here she met an accident that made her lame for life, 
But she bore her troubles bravely, as became a soldier's wife ; 
From Seneca to Grover on a stretcher she did ride, 
Survived the awful sickness with which so many died." 

Here Bub paused and bowed. " There's more 
to it," said he, " but I aint got it yet. When I 
do I'll speak it to you. It's all about a real live 
woman ; my uncle knows her." 

"Why, it's nice, isn't it, teacher?" said Jasmine, 
who was fond of verses. " I'd write all the time if 
I could do so well." 

" Pooh ! " and Bub resumed his gymnastics. 
" My Uncle John writes whole letters like that. 
He don't mind. He don't care whether he makes 
poetry or shoots rebs." 

" A little boy with such an uncle ought to be a 
splendid scholar, don't you think so ? " said Esther, 
looking with new interest into the animated freckled 
face. 

Bub returned the look with a conscious blush, 
then with a wild whoop he sprang through the open 
door-way, shouting, " Lil — lil ! " at which rallying- 
cry every barefooted boy-patriot rushed out to join 
in their favorite game. Esther was surprised that 
her scholars knew so well the condition of the coun- 
try. She had thought they liked the quick martial 



ESTHER'S SCHOOL. 171 

music of the "war songs" and their rattling cho- 
ruses ; but after that day she was able to detect a 
deeper appreciation in their voices, sustaining their 
claim to a share of the honor of belonging to the 
" loyalest deestrict in Gilead." 

And that was a summer to test every body's loy- 
alty. The first of July came the terrible battle of 
Gettysburg, which filled the papers with heart-rend- 
ing accounts and long, long lists of killed and 
wounded. Then Vicksburg surrendered, and there 
was a gleam of hope again. But a little later came 
the first draft, followed by terrible resistance in 
New York city, where riots, mobs, and bloodshed 
filled the land with a new dread and made white 
lips ask, " What next ? What next ? " 

But the press and pulpit of the Green Mountain 
State stood firm, and above the murmurs of the 
faint-hearted and the false rose the faith and cour- 
age of those who spoke to the people with author- 
ity. The editors and ministers of those days are 
passing away, but they belong to an unrecognized 
" Grand Army " which fed the fires of loyalty at 
home through many a dark and ominous peril. 

The country seemed full of strange contradictions 
that summer; for while battles were being fought 
and men were dying in hospitals the rural districts 
of the North were being invaded by pleasure-seekers 
as never before. Up among the White Mountains, 
along the Vermont lakes, and in quiet little villages 
were seen crowds of those who had money from the 
soldier-boys or who had coined their gold out of 
the great necessities of the hour. Speculation was 
rife and dishonest men in their glory ; and the sol- 



172 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

dier boys received blankets and clothing among 
other things bearing witness to this. It was 
"shoddy" sometimes in those days, and from the 
vast wealth resulting arose "shoddy aristocracy!" 

Even Gilead saw some of it during a few weeks 
of unusual splendor. But still the children sang in 
the quiet shadow of old Bear Mountain : 

" Rally 'round the flag, boys, 

Rally once again, 

Shouting the battle-cry of freedom ! " 



VICTORIA VICTRIX. 173 



CHAPTER XV. 

VICTORIA VICTRIX. 

ESTHER'S school duties did not prevent fre- 
quent calls upon Mrs. Stanley and Vic Arm- 
strong. Mrs. Stanley always greeted her with a cor- 
diality which would have surprised those who only 
saw the gentle widow at church. " My dear child ! " 
was her usual greeting ; and then Esther would kiss 
the soft thin cheek with the " tips of her lips " and 
be ushered with quaint ceremony into the tiny 
" best room." 

No matter where Esther looked during these visits, 
she always saw something to remind her of Don, 
from the case of handsome books in the parlor to 
his coat and hat hanging in the little entry through 
which she always passed. At all these reminders 
she glanced with shy reverence, when she thought 
herself unobserved, although we must confess that 
in leaving the house she usually gave the old coat 
a loving touch when she was quite, quite alone, 
then hastened away with blushing cheeks and pal- 
pitating heart. Not a word passed between the 
two respecting Don's letters, however, which any 
stranger might not have heard ; but there was a 
tacit understanding which made the calls very com- 
forting to both. One night in August Esther had 
carried an offering of delicious blackberries, deco- 



17 i THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

rated with green leaves and vines ; and after enjoy- 
ing a few moments' chat reluctantly turned toward 
Joe Armstrong's little home impelled by sundry 
messages which Vic had been sending by the neigh- 
bors' children. 

" Vic is so discouraged I don't know what to say 
to her," she had said to the widow. 

" Perhaps you are the very one to help her out of 
her selfishness and sloth," was the gentle reply ; 
and the thought followed Esther as she climbed 
the slope beyond. She found Victoria sitting in 
the door-way in an untidy dress, her pretty hair 
uncombed, engaged in reading a story-paper, while 
baby Nellie was playing in the dirt with some new 
tin pans commonly used for milk. 

" O, Vic!" cried Esther, without waiting to greet 
her, " do see what the baby is doing. She will spoil 
those pans." 

Vic looked up languidly. 

"O, it's you, Esther, at last! Don't mind the 
baby ; she wont do no hurt. I let her have 
every thing to keep her quiet ; " and scrambling 
to her feet she brought a rocking-chair to the 
door. 

" I'd ask you to go in, but it looks worse in the 
house than it does out here — " 

" I'd rather sit here, it is so cool and pleasant un- 
der this big tree ; " and Esther removed her 
broad-brimmed hat, looking around with new in- 
terest. 

" You might make this yard real pretty, Vic, if 
you would try," said she. " Mrs. Stubbs has made 
hers beautiful with all sorts of vines and flowers. 



VICTORIA VICTRIX. 175 

You ought to see it now, while her dahlias are in 
blossom." 

" O, my gracious! " said Vic, scornfully. "I'd 
like to know who cares whether my yard looks nice 
or not. I aint going to stay here anyway, Esther. 
If Joe can leave me to go to war I guess I can live 
where I please, and I'm going to take Joe's pay 
and board in the village with Aunt Maria. I'll buy 
some nice new dresses and have 'em made like those 
in the fashion-plates. Lawyer Ellis says it's a 
shame for me to bury myself over here in the 
woods when I might be having good times in the 
village." 

Esther dared not speak for a moment, she was so 
startled by the words of her foolish friend. She 
felt like catching hold of her with both hands to 
save her from some impending peril, but dared not 
betray her anxiety. Instead she said lightly, " He 
has no right to give advice until he is asked. Think 
how Joe loves this little home, and how hard he 
worked for it. Every body says it will be such a 
nice place when it's all cleared and paid for." 

" It aint going to be paid for, because I want the 
money ; and the farm may go to rack and ruin for 
all I care;" and Vic folded her dimpled arms 
defiantly. 

" I know what I would do, Victoria, if I were in 
your place," continued Esther. "I would never, 
never sell my pretty house, but I would pay up the 
debt with Joe's wages, and then fix up the house 
with new paint and paper, and make a rag-carpet 
for the sitting-room, and some rugs for the kitchen, 
and cover the big rocking-chair with new copper- 



176 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

plate, and hang some new white curtains at the 
windows. Then I would buy a few pretty dresses 
and have them made good and strong, Vic " — and 
both looked at the rips in the one she was wearing 
with a smile — "and then every afternoon I would 
put one of them on and comb my beautiful hair 
and coil it up just as I would want it to look if Joe 
should happen to come up the path." 

" O, O, O, don't say any more ! " sobbed Yic, sud- 
denly turning and burying her face in Esther's lap. 
"I know I'm all wrong, and I'm just as miserable 
and lonesome as I can be ; and I thought I would 
try to do better, but I get to reading, and my bread 
sours and my cream molds and my butter aint fit to 
eat, and Frank's mad because he don't have good 
victuals, and says he wont carry on the farm, and I 
don't know what to do." 

Esther smoothed the tangled hair, and little 
Nellie came toddling up to lay her head beside her 
mamma's and pat her cheek with a very hot, dirty 
hand. 

" Well, I wouldn't give up, Vic," said Esther, 
half crying herself. " You know Joe and all the 
rest have gone to war, not because they wanted to 
leave home, but to save the country; and it seems 
to me we that stay here ought to do our very best, 
so that when they come back they will find every 
thing ready for them. And, Vic, I wish you would 
stop reading those silly love-stories. For Joe's sake 
don't you think you could, dear ? " 

" O, I don't know," sighed Vic, wearily. "When 
mother died last winter she tried to make me prom- 
ise to, but seems to me I can't. When I get to 



VICTORIA VICTRIX. 177 

reading one of them Ledger stories I can't stop ; but 
when I do stop there's so many things that ought 
to be done I don't know where to begin." 

" Well, I would begin," said Esther, firmly ; " and 
the first thing I'd make a big bonfire of the old 
papers and never let any more come into the 
house." 

"All my old papers that I've saved up-stairs?" 
aske 1 Vic, reproachfully. 

" Yes, every one, unless you're anxious to keep 
them for Nellie, to read by and by." 

" O, no, I don't want Nellie to read 'em. I want 
her to learn to work and do things in season, too. 
She must be a scholar ; that's what papa Joe says ; " 
and Vic seized the dirty baby, kissing her sweet, 
sticky mouth again and again. And so, over the 
baby the two girls wiped their eyes and silently 
resolved, the one to reform, the other to " lend a 
hand " while the work was being done. Vic pushed 
away the wavy tangles from her flushed forehead 
and swollen eyes and looked up. 

" Esther," said she, " tell me what you would do 
first if you was in my place — really in my place, you 
know." 

" I would comb my hair, wash baby's face, and 
give her some supper. Then I would — burn — 
those — papers;" and Esther, amazed at her own 
boldness, kissed Vic tenderly and hurried down the 
hill toward her boarding-place. 

A few rods from the house she discovered Frank 

Shaw, sitting on a big rock by the roadside trying to 

coax music from an old flute. He looked nearly as 

discouraged as had Victoria ; and, guessing that he 

12 . 



178 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

had left his sister after a quarrel, but hardly cared 
to go home, she stopped and asked him if he were 
learning to play. 

"Can't make much music out of this old thing," 
replied Frank. " I did think I'd buy a new one 
when Joe paid me next time, but I've quit work to- 
day." 

"Now, Frank," said Esther, earnestly, "you 
mustn't leave Vic. I've just been having a long 
talk with her, and she's feeling better. You must 
remember how much Joe thinks of her and how he 
petted her, and be patient." 

"Well, I have been patient, Miss Steele, but a 
feller can't live on bread and milk all the time, es- 
pecially when the bread is sour and hard. I took 
the hammer and chisel to the table to break it with 
this noon, and that's what begun the fuss." 

Esther laughed. 

"I don't believe the bread will be that way any 
more, Frank, really. And then, again, it wouldn't 
be fair to leave Vic while Joe's off fighting for the 
country. Joe and your brother '11 be home one of 
these days, and you don't want them to find that 
the ' home guards ' haven't done their duty." 

Frank drew a long breath. 

" I know," said he. " I didn't forget that, either; 
but Vic's been a trial. I don't wonder Joe was 
ready to go to war after eating her bread a couple 
of years. I'd want to get shot if I was him." 

"But you'll go back and try it once more, wont 
you, Frank ? " asked Esther, with an encouraging 
nod. 

"O, I s'pose so. I think lots of little Nellie;" 



VICTORIA VICTRIX. 179 

and Frank polished the old flute diligently to con- 
ceal a deeper feeling than he cared to exhibit. 

" All right, then ; " and Esther left him, feeling 
sure that if her friend would do right Frank was 
pledged to " bear and forbear " a little longer. 

And that Victoria was moved by some new im- 
pulse became evident as soon as Esther disappeared 
around the foot of the slope, for she ran up-stairs 
into the little room where lay piles of papers and 
old books in confused heaps upon the floor. Seiz- 
ing an armful she descended and soon had them 
blazing in the kitchen stove. Again and again she 
filled the stove, regardless of consequences, while 
the baby clapped her hands and laughed. Victoria 
continued this cremation until she reached the last 
serial, " The Bride of the Magic Cave," bound to- 
gether and tied securely. This was peculiarly fas- 
cinating and terrible ; but the thought that Nellie 
might sometime read it sealed its doom, and it 
was soon rolling up the chimney in a volume 
of smoke. It was no wonder that Frank, slowly 
returning to the house, hastened his footsteps 
as he saw smoke mingled with sparks flying up- 
ward. 

" What under the sun you doing now, Vic? " he 
cried, rushing into the kitchen, seizing a pail of 
water, and climbing to the roof with the utmost 
speed. "There now, Vic," said he, as he met her 
in the chamber bringing another pail of water, 
" next time you set the house afire give me a little 
notice, so I can get my clothes out." 

" It didn't really get afire, did it?" asked his sis- 
ter, with pallid lips. 



180 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

" Course it did. Burned out the soot and scorched 
quite a place in the roof." 

" Well, you see, Frank, I've been burning my old 
story-papers and books," said Vic. 

" Je-ru-sa-lem ! I don't wonder they made a hot 
blaze. Kind of flavored with brimstone, you know. 
May be I better take up another pail of water under 
the circumstances." 

Vic would have been angry ordinarily, but now 
she only smiled pitifully, trembling, too, as she 
thought, now the danger was over, how she would 
have felt if the little house had burned. With a 
feeling of genuine shame, such as she had never be- 
fore experienced, our delinquent housekeeper col- 
lected a few fragments of former feasts for their late 
supper ; but with a clean cloth on the table, a clean- 
faced baby beside her, and Frank graciously endeav- 
ing to cut his bread with a knife just opposite, Vic 
felt that she had really made a beginning. The 
very next morning, with deep humiliation and many 
misgivings, she took little Nellie and made her way 
to Mrs. Stubbs's kitchen. The result of her visit 
that worthy woman rehearsed to Esther at the first 
opportunity. 

" The day of miracles aint over," said she, with 
beaming countenance. " Victory Armstrong wants 
to learn how to make good bread. And she's in 
earnest, too. She wrote it all down on paper, and 
I'm going to give her yeast every week. She's a 
pretty girl^ Victory is, and she looked so humble 
and sorry I couldn't help kissing her. Dretful curi- 
ous she was about my posies, too, and asked ques- 
tions about this thing and that, in doors and out, 



VICTORIA VICTRIX. 181 

till I made up my mind she'd had a dream or a vis- 
ion or something like what come to Saul of Tarsus. 
Something's woke her up, any way, and I kind of 
asked the Lord to help me give just the advice she 
needed, bein' her mother's dead. I felt fairly beat out 
with surprise and astonishment after I see her off with 
a loaf of my bread and a couple of pies for a sample, 
for, as I said to Mr. Stubbs, I'd as soon expect one 
o' them robins out there to hop in and ask for 
knitting-work as I would to have Victory Armstrong 
come into my kitchen to have me learn her to make 
good bread." 



182 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

GILEAD'S "SOLDIERS' AID." 

BEFORE the close of '63 the loyal women of 
Gilead organized a " Soldiers' Aid Society." 
The "Christian Commission" was carrying on its 
splendidly organized and equipped work for the 
soldiers, and hundreds of aid societies were in active 
operation long before this, but, as we have intimated, 
our little rural town moved slowly. Boxes had 
been sent to their own "boys" — many of them — 
but a conviction was growing that something more 
was essential ; so when a notice was read in the 
two churches one Sunday late in the fall, calling 
for a meeting of all the " willing-hearted " on the 
next Thursday afternoon, it met general approval. 

" O, if Miss Hancock were only here to tell us 
what to do! " said one and another when the time 
for the meeting arrived. 

" Think of the good she is doing where she is," 
replied Mrs. Fletcher. " The dear soul writes that 
she is nurse and mother, too, in her ward — writing 
letters, telling stories, listening to family histories, 
and sometimes just crying and praying while some 
poor fellow's tortured soul is set free. The doctors 
tell her she'll have to come home in the spring to 
recruit, for she's not one to stay more than a year in 
such a trying place." 



GILEAD'S "SOLDIERS' AID." 183 

Not much machinery was required for a society 
which had but one object, and that was soon set in 
motion. Mrs. Plumley, elected president with very 
little formality, took her place beside the large table 
opened to its full size in her own parlor and looked 
into the faces of the women around her. Her black 
dress with its simple crape trimmings, her face 
with its indescribable expression of mingled sorrow 
and heroic endurance, helped emphasize her appeal. 

" I have nothing to urge upon you, dear sisters," 
said she, " because we are only taking our share of 
the responsibility resting upon all women to-day. 
A long, cold winter is upon us. We have seen 
some -victories, and we believe General Grant is the 
leader we have been waiting for ; but Lincoln calls 
for ' three hundred thousand more ; ' so it is evident 
that our President doesn't think the war will close 
in the spring, as we had hoped. Our own Guards 
are fretting still in Washington, longing for action, 
and perhaps we feel that they are comparatively safe ; 
but we don't know how many of them may be in 
hospital before spring; at any rate somebody's sons 
will be there — hundreds of them — dependent for 
comfort upon supplies sent from the North. I felt 
sure you wouldn't feel satisfied with simply organ- 
izing to-day — time is too precious; so I bought a 
web of cotton-cloth and collected some old sheets, 
that we might begin our work at once." 

A murmur of approval followed these remarks, 
and while the cloth was brought in and put upon 
the table thimbles and needles made their appear- 
ance, and in an incredibly short space of time sheets, 
pillow slips, and shirts were in process of manufact- 



184 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

ure, while old linen was being carefully prepared 
for bandages or scraped into snowy piles of lint. 
Sewing-machines were very rare in Gilead, but Mrs. 
Plumley had one of the few, and it was devoted to the 
use of the " Soldiers' Aid " from that hour, although 
some of the ladies had an old-fashioned notion that 
every thing sent to "the boys" ought to be "hand- 
made." As they wrought with nervous energy it 
was good to see how one absorbing interest was 
bringing them together. Like many small country 
towns, Gilead had its " distinctions." A social 
philosopher might well smile over such very, very 
small orbital differences, but to the "orbs" they 
were by no means imaginary. They existed be- 
tween the churches, and also to some extent be- 
tween those living "out of" and "in" the vil- 
lage. The brown church was supposed to be more 
aristocratic than its neighbor across the green. 
It had come to town first. It had the bell, also 
red cushions in its pews, carpeted aisles and grass- 
cloth curtains at its windows. The white church 
had none of these luxuries. More of the village 
people attended the brown church, and " this, 
that, and the other " were all weighed in invis- 
ible scales, and people who felt the tipping of 
one side or the other governed themselves accord- 
ingly. But this afternoon Mrs. Green, the mer- 
chant's wife, measured pillow-slips with Mrs. Rollins, 
who was as aggressive and acrimonious as ever, but 
" of course she must help as long as her boy was 
down South." 

Mrs. Hickey, in a figured calico dress, sat quite at 
her ease with Mrs. Akers, the cashier's wife, sewing 



GILEAD'S "SOLDIERS' AID." 185 

"over and over" at opposite ends of the same 
sheet, while Mrs. Smith from her mountain eyrie 
gave Mrs. Allen, wife of the "richest man in town," 
her rule for preserving sweet flag-root in sugar, 
recommending it highly for her husband's " heart- 
burn." 

O, it is good to remember that through common 
sorrow the hearts of home-workers were brought 
very near together! And of course these women 
talked as fast as they sewed. A poor " skedaddler," 
as deserters were called, had been caught in a barn 
near the village and promptly delivered to the 
proper authorities a few days before. Over his case 
there was a difference of opinion, some of the 
ladies pitying the coward who had been so near 
Canada and failed to reach it, while others declared 
they were glad he was caught, and wished they 
might have his fate to decide ! Among the last 
mentioned was Martha Thompson, whose unyield- 
ing attitude as she sat scraping lint was suggestive 
of nothing less than the courage and fortitude of a 
Roman matron. 

" The fact is," said she, " this is a sort of high- 
way for all the scalawags in New Hampshire and 
Massachusetts who want to run to Canada. Let a 
few of 'em get caught, I say. Let 'em smell gun- 
powder, and take their chance with better men." 

In the midst of conversation the loud-voiced 
stage -bells were heard, and the big covered 
sleigh, with its two sweating horses, their mouths 
frost-covered, dashed past, drawing up with a flour- 
ish in front of the post-office. So many ladies were 
expecting " war letters" — they were always expect- 



186 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

ing them in those days — that a messenger was 
sent over, and very soon they were brought in and 
distributed. Can any of my readers remember the 
gay, patriotic envelopes used by the soldiers and 
their friends? In the corner opposite the stamp 
were designs — eagles, flags, shields, cannons, and 
swords, or perhaps the portraits of Union generals. 
Lincoln's face was often seen, sometimes Lincoln's 
and Washington's together, surrounded by a wreath 
of laurel. Gayly colored were many of these de- 
signs, and the paper corresponded, often being bor- 
dered or barred with red, white, and blue lines. 
Yes, the very mail-bags were laden with patriotism 
in those days ! Scraps of the letters were read 
aloud, among others a part of John Henry Hickey's, 
our young friend having won quite a reputation as 
a spicy writer. 

"Thanks to Corporal Rollins," he wrote, "while 
you folks at home were feasting on turkey and 
plum-pudding, not to mention other superfluous 
goodies, we also ate our turkey. The proud bird 
was reheated by our tent cook, and we gathered 
around it trying not to notice the absence of side 
dishes. O, but it was good, mother! and for once 
we were glad we were not on the 'tented field,' 
but still here at old Fortress Monroe. We ate 
every thing but the bones, drawing lots for the wish- 
bone, which is pinned to my tent just above my 
head. Then we finished the birthday cake you 
sent, and were ready to sing. We tried ' Home, 
Sweet Home,' but some of the boys grew suddenly 
hoarse, so we struck up ' '65's the Jubilee for the 
Darkies Ebery-where,' which went with a vim. 



GILEAD'S "SOLDIERS' AID." 187 

George and I and the other Gilead boys are well, 
and would like to see some new recruits down here. 
Tell our fellow-citizens of the Green Mountain 
peaks if I was up there and wanted to come down 
here pretty bad, and had nothing to hinder, I would 
the first thing gather myself together and come, all 
in one solemn column, to the tune of ' Soldier's 
Joy,' common time, rout step, double quick, marcJi ! 
The weather here varies, days usually quite warm, 
while some nights are cold enough to freeze the ears 
off a stone image." 

" There, now, I guess I wont read any more," 
laughed Mrs. Hickey as she wiped her eyes. " John 
Henry gets extravagant sometimes." 

The ladies had a plain early tea, after which the 
village girls and men, young and old, came, drawn 
together by a bond of common interest. The Bos- 
ton Daily was brought in, and the Standard, truest 
and stanchest of all, damp from the press. News 
from the front was read aloud, and army leaders 
criticised or commended as usual. Doubts were 
expressed as to the possibility of raising " three 
hundred thousand more," for, judging the nation by 
Gilead, they said, " Who is there to go? " 

Among other gleanings we find one worthy of 
special preservation, which Dr. Adams read from 
the Standard, from which it is literally copied : 

" A gentleman from Massachusetts went to New- 
berne, when General Wilde went down to raise 
negro troops. He went out into the country with 
a friend, visited a lot of black men who were cutting 
timber for government, and made them a speech, 
telling them that they were to be called on to enlist, 



188 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

and urging them to do their duty for their country. 
As a result the next morning, before the recruiting 
office could be opened, a black man with one hun- 
dred men — the gang of government wood-cutters — 
came to enlist. When the Massachusetts man was 
coming away he espied a black woman trying to get 
past a line of guards to him. He assisted her and 
a colored minister to do so, when she approached 
him and handed him a brown paper parcel that jin- 
gled, explaining that it was money that had been 
subscribed by colored women of Newberne to buy a 
standard of colors for the first regiment of North 
Carolina volunteers. It was one hundred dollars, 
she said, and they wanted a first-rate one. 

" ' But you will need the money; you had better 
keep it — the government will provide the colors,' 
said the gentleman. 

" But this so distressed the woman and the minis- 
ter that he took the money, made up mostly of 
silver three-cent pieces, half dimes, and dimes, from 
the scanty earnings of the slaves, and said : 

" ' Madam, you shall have the very handsomest 
flag that the city of Boston can supply.' 

" With the money was the subscription paper, the 
first gotten up by slave women in the United States 
for such a purpose. It was written by ' Marian, a 
Cook,' and is as follows : 

" ' Sob-scription list. Ladays old and young, one 
and all, I call on you in this time of our great 
Struggle for Liberty. We a Potion of us do intend 
to go forward and try and Collect Money enough to 
Purchase a decent flag for our Colard Solgers and 
Jcntlemen, for it is for our good and the good of 



GILEAD'S "SOLDIERS' AID." 1S9 

our Daughters that our husbands and Sons do 
in-List to fight our Battles and gain our Libatys 
therefore there Remans a work for us to do and 
Let us rise and do our parte Cheerfully Please 
give me Something to aid us in this matter.' 

" Signed, ' Marian Hargit and others.' " 

This little account of self-denial was quite in line 
with public sentiment. 

"Real common sense, I call it," said Esquire 
Fletcher ; " shows that they're just such folks as we 
are." 

King, the editor of the Standard, had just en- 
tered in time to catch the last remark and its appli- 
cation. 

" If they don't fight well under that flag they 
deserve to be shot. But they will. They're men, 
and government itself can't make them 'contra- 
bands.' I expect to see grand work done by colored 
troops yet," said he. 

" You've got great faith in niggers, King, but I 
tell you they'll run ! they'll run ! I went down 
South myself when I was a young man, and I tell 
you they're cowards, these niggers;" and Mr. Green, 
who was a well-known " copper-head," edged his 
way through the crowd toward the table where the 
editor was standing. This latter individual, who 
was literally " boiling over with patriotism," cleared 
his throat and prepared to reply; but Mrs. Plumley 
quietly arose and happened to place herself with 
an armful of half-completed garments between the 
two. 

" I feel like shaking hands with ' Marian Hargit 
and others,' " said she, with a smile. " I think our 



190 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

new society will adopt her language and say, 
' Therefore there remains a work for us to do.' 
And we will begin by asking Mr. Green to ' Please 
give us something to aid us.' " 

But by the time she had emptied her arms and 
turned toward him with outstretched hand he had 
retreated in good order ; for if there was any thing 
his soul hated it was a "collection." Neverthe- 
less, it was taken with much quiet laughter, and 
several cutting remarks reflecting upon his bravery 
as compared with that of his colored brethren. 

" But we ought to be doing more, I think," said 
lively Nellie Lucas, one of the village teachers. 
" Miss Sawyer says they have had a soldiers' fair 
in Bucksbury and raised over a hundred dollars. 
She had a long letter from her cousin telling all 
about it." 

Miss Sawyer, a red-cheeked, modest little lady, 
came forward after much persuasion and read the 
description referred to, which was followed by an 
eager discussion of grab-bags, fish-ponds, Jacob's- 
wells, post-offices, etc., a part of the devices used 
in securing funds in that time of national need. 
Figuratively speaking, Gilead clapped its hands 
over the prospect. Here was an opportunity to do 
good, to have " lots of fun," and, if possible, to 
outdo Bucksbury all at once! Committees were 
appointed that very evening to take charge of this 
great undertaking, and several weeks of the dull 
" snow-bound " winter were enlivened by prepara- 
tions for it. 

Girls who had been accustomed to sit under 
buffalo robes while fathers and brothers drove 



GILEAD'S "SOLDIERS' AID." 101 

now went dashing along the country roads, their 
hands in thick yarn mittens, their faces rosy and 
resolute, as they held the reins and dispatched 
business with a new courage born of necessity. 

The news of the great sanitary fair of the North- 
west, with its receipts reaching nearly one hundred 
thousand dollars, had run across the nation like 
wild-fire. The papers were full of it, and it was 
the model and guide for city and country. As our 
Gilead friends talked and read they began to realize 
something of the tremendous efforts that were being 
made in the heart of the country. Their first plan 
broadened. They would have singing and reciting of 
patriotic pieces, tableaus, and charades. They would 
beg donations of precious things to sell at enormous 
profits. They would hire a brass band ! And so it 
came to pass that Gilead's fair was larger and longer 
and more magnificent in every respect than Bucks- 
bury had ever dreamed of! It was held on Christ- 
mas week, and the people came from far and near 
for three consecutive evenings. Ruby Fletcher 
was there to play and sing; and when standing 
before the people with her patriotic little head 
raised and her full triumphant voice filling the old 
church she sang some of the new "war songs," 
her audience gave her a recall which was unmis- 
takably sincere. Gilead was by no means " senti- 
mental," but no place is too stupid to enjoy a bit 
of romance, and there was a tacit understanding 
that Ruby had given up her lover for her country's 
sake in quite an unusual way. Hence Ruby was a 
heroine and something of a martyr! 

Her return on this occasion with a more dignified 



192 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

bearing and a more womanly and scholarly expres- 
sion than she had ever worn met a general ap- 
proval, and quite warranted all the applause she 
received. Abram, poor fellow, felt it all! He had 
done an immense amount of hard work for the 
ladies, but absolutely refused to help sing patriotic 
airs. 

" It would be so inconsistent," he had said to 
Mrs. Plumley, when she appealed to him. 

" Abram, I wish you would tell me why," she had 
said, in her tender, motherly way. 

1 1 is lips had trembled, but he only replied : 

" I cannot," and no one had ventured any farther 
appeal. So he sat well back in the audience shield- 
ing his face with one hand while he watched Ruby 
through his fingers ! 

Hiel Saunders noticed his apparent unconcern, 
and said to himself: 

" Blamed if I'd stan' it ! May be Ruby is the God- 
dess of Liberty, but I wont ' stomp ' till I'm sure." 

Esther Steele had her little triumph that evening 
also when the best singers in her school gave in 
perfect time and tune their favorite " Tramp, tramp, 
tramp, the boys are marching," with the brass 
band from the Center to accompany each chorus. 
Even little Bub Spinner immortalized himself by 
reciting some exquisitely absurd verses written by 
his warrior uncle, with matchless fervor and a 
quaint dramatic force which was nature's own gift. 
Esther felt fully repaid for all her efforts as she 
looked into Mrs. Spinner's toil-worn face under her 
old-fashioned bonnet and saw the glow of mother- 
pride and the flash of happy tears. 



GILEAD'S "SOLDIERS' AID." 193 

Of course there was much eating and drinking in 
the " town hall," to which the audience was invited 
after the exercises of each evening were over. In 
that department Mrs. Douglas and Martha Thomp- 
son reigned supreme over a corps of assistants who 
dispensed quantities of rich cookery regardless of 
consequences. 

At the close of this unprecedented dissipation 
the tired workers counted their gains and announced 
two hundred and fifty dollars for the " boys in 
blue!" 
13 



194 THE GJLEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

COMFORT-BAGS. 

"/"^ IRLS, which would you rather do, take care 

VJJ" of a greasy ' Kanuck ' this spring, or help 
Benjie make sugar, so I can go ahead with the other 
work?" asked Abram one day in early April. 

" Help make the sugar," was the quick response. 

"We can do it, of course, " said Mary. "And 
perhaps earn money enough to buy some calico 
dresses, if you pay good wages." 

" You may well say that, for Mr. Green told me 
he must ask thirty cents a yard for the next lot; so 
you see ten yards will cost three dollars," said 
Esther. 

" Exactly ! good girl to remember your arith- 
metic. But Mr. Green will ask a long time before 
I buy his old calico. ' When this cruel war is 
over ' prices will go down again," sang Mary. 

"But what will you do next summer, girls?" 
asked their mother. 

" Turn our old dresses," replied Esther, briskly. 

"You've done that already," sighed Mrs. Steele. 

"Well, 'one good turn deserves another,' I've 
heard you say. Now I've given my dresses one 
good turn, and — " 

" Esther ! Esther! " cried Mary, seizing her sister 
by the arm ; " that's a joke ! Have you inherited 



COM FOR T-BA GS. 1 95 

Uncle Rufus's 'gift?' Think of his awful humor 
and spare your poor family. I see Abram's idea; 
he's all for saving money these days, and so instead 
of hiring a worthy Frenchman for help he takes us, 
his unworthy sisters. I'm afraid he has inherited 
Uncle Mont's gift of accumulation." 

Mr. Steele was searching the prophecy of Daniel 
for some text which somebody said "bore on the 
war ; " but he lifted his head at that moment, look- 
ing over his glasses at his tall son. 

" Remember, ' the life is more than meat,' 
Abram," said he. " I hope I wont never see you 
so fond of money as your Uncle Mont is." 

" No, father, you never will ; but of course you 
want to see every thing paid up, and this is the time 
to do it. They say butter will be forty cents a 
pound and wool over a dollar this spring." 

The theme did not exactly suit Abram, and while 
he was speaking he hastily thrust his papers into 
his desk and locked it. 

"With two or three hundred pounds of wool and 
a fair showin' of butter, seems 's if we ought to be 
even with the world by 'n' by," said his father, wist- 
fully. 

"Yes, sir ; we'll sing our emancipation hymn one 
of these days; but I must be off. Is it a bargain, 
girls? " 

Hardly waiting to hear their cheery affirmative 
he hurried away. By clever management he had 
already paid Hiel Saunders several hundred dollars 
of the thousand ; but he knew very well that his 
father — almost helpless now from increasing lame- 
ness — was constantly wondering what became of 



196 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

the money that came in ; for farmers were receiving 
wonderful prices for all kinds of produce, and Mr. 
Steele knew the income of the farm was steadily 
increasing. Abram always reported sales and prices 
most dutifully ; but what became of the money ? He 
wondered that morning how much longer he could 
bear the double burden resting upon him. After 
much thought he had written to Austin a full state- 
ment of the case, appealing to him to lead a better 
life, to live down his disgrace, and in simple justice 
to send home his wages until the awful debt was 
paid. But that portion of the army with which 
Austin was connected was moving from place to 
place in the far South, and letters were often lost. 
The last news from him was indirectly received 
through soldiers at home on furlough, and might 
not be reliable, so Abram was still waiting for an 
answer and hoping against hope. 

" There ! isn't this ever so much better than cook- 
ing for a hired man?" asked Esther, as she sat 
down in an old splint-bottom rocking-chair in the 
sugar-house a day or two later. 

Mary occupied an upturned box near, and upon 
a rough little table between them was a work- 
basket piled high with " sewing." Just above the 
table were two long shelves filled with books and 
papers, and at the one window hung a white curtain, 
"to make it look more civilized," Mary said. On 
the opposite side of the room was the wide brick 
arch — hollow in the center, with a door in one end 
— upon which was the sheet-iron pan filled with 
sap, boiling and bubbling, and filling the air with 
steamy sweetness. 



COMFORT-BAGS. 197 

A pile of " three-foot wood" filled the back part 
of the sugar-house, and sap-holders, pails, etc., 
made up its primitive furnishings. 

Our description would be incomplete, however, 
were we to omit the pictures upon the rough board 
wall. These were the work of Benjie's artistic fin- 
gers. Here, done in charcoal or red chalk, were 
various heads, most of them to illustrate some pe- 
culiarity of form or feature ; for Benjie was a half- 
fledged phrenologist as well as an artist. Hence 
noses, chins, lips, and ears indicated special " stud- 
ies." The war had given him new inspiration, 
however, and generals' heads were now strangely 
introduced into his gallery of abnormal develop- 
ments ! Harper s Weeklies were also* pinned up 
here and there, with pictures of battle scenes and 
of noted men, showing that our Yankee boy was 
fully up with the times. 

It was no cross for Esther and Mary to hurry 
through with their share of the housework each 
morning, and, either alone or together, to come to 
this quiet and unique retreat. Their duties were 
to keep the fire burning, the pan well filled with 
sap, and at the proper time help Benjie " sugar 
off." Considerable time remained for other work, 
and their first enterprise was to be "comfort-bags " 
for the soldiers. 

" Have you the list of things to put in? " asked 
Mary, as she carefully measured the pretty blue 
cloth, ten by seven inches, for the bag itself. 

Esther answered by reading the list : 

" A needle-book, pin-ball, white and black thread, 
buttons, large and small, pair of small scissors, bit 



198 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

of bees-wax, roll of plaster, large thimble, a letter, 
an envelope with blank paper inside, and a stamp." 

" Doctor Adams's wife says that a good many 
put in a plug of tobacco, but I wont do that," said 
Mary, firmly. 

" Of course not," replied her sister ; " but we might 
send spruce gum instead." 

"Yes, that's more sensible," said Mary, "and I 
suppose they have lots of time to chew something. 
I've a great mind to put in my little pearl-handled 
knife for my soldier-boy. I guess he may be fond 
of whittling." 

" Well, if it goes I hope the right one will get it, 
for you don't find pearl-handled knives like that very 
often. Doctor Snow told the girls to put in a little 
package of cayenne pepper. He says when the 
poor fellows come in wet and cold it would be 
splendid to have a cup of pepper-tea," said Esther. 

" That's just the thing. And I'll write on the 
outside of my package, ' To be divided with the 
rebels.' It's only fair to give them a peppering, 
too.' 

" I shall send my little black Testament. That 
will be precious if the soldier is sick or homesick. 
It is easy enough to fill the list, all but the letter. 
What to write I don't know," said Esther, bending 
thoughtfully over her work. 

" Why, really, I thought practice made perfect ; " 
and Mary gave her sister a tantalizing glance. 

Esther's face flushed hotly from chin to smooth 
brown hair, and she answered not a word. 

"Speaking of letters," continued Mary, "did 
you hear them telling, the other evening, how 



COM FOR T-BA GS. 199 

Sophie Adams's correspondence had come out? It 
must have been after you left, then. You know 
she sent a letter several months ago, and got an 
answer right away, and of course you saw the photo- 
graph she had — " 

Both girls paused to laugh heartily, for Sophie 
Adams's " Sergeant " had been exhibited all over 
town. 

" Then she had her picture taken when that 
ambrotype-car was here, and Emma Green said it 
was a sight. She borrowed Emma's rings, and so 
of course she sprawled her hands, and she wore her 
aunt's gold chain. Well, she sent him that ; and 
finally the girls said that Sophie said she was en- 
gaged to him. But last month, when Lieutenant 
Plumley was home from Washington, he told her 
mother something, it seems, which put a stop to it, 
and now some of the Gilead boys have written 
home that Sophie's ' Sergeant ' is a married man ! 
It's all over town, and she feels dreadfully. You 
see he just made fun of her letters and showed her 
picture to all the boys, and so, of course, it was 
recognized. They say she's hardly been out of the 
house since it happened." 

"No wonder!" said Esther, rather severely. 
" How could a girl be so foolish ? I hope it 
will be a warning to the rest of those silly village 
girls." 

. " Aint we glad we live on a farm, where there's 
nothing but good sense?" asked Mary, serenely. 

While Esther was laughing quietly over this 
thrust Benjie's " Hallo there ! " was heard outside, 
and Mary ran to open the door. 



200 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

He came in with two pails brimming full of sap, 
suspended from the hooks of the wooden " yoke " 
made to fit his neck and shoulders. 

" O, do be quick, and let us have the mail," 
cried the girls; for Benjie had been "across lots" 
to the village on the hard-crusted snow, which still 
loitered in the woods and shaded hollows. 

" O, yes," responded the boy, as he let down his 
heavy pails and hung up his yoke, " you're ter- 
rible glad to see me when I come from the post- 
office. Here's your letter, Esther, and it's such a 
fat one you'll have to give me two pieces of mince- 
pie at noon. I've got one from John Henry Hickey, 
and some papers. Now, Esther, read yours out 
loud first, and then I'll read mine." 

For answer Esther gave her brother a playful 
push and slipped her letter into her pocket. 

" O, do read yours, Benjie, I'm in a hurry to 
know if the Guards are going to the front," said 
Mary. 

" No, they're still at Fort Stevens ; but this is what 
he says about it : 

" ' We hear that the hitherto inglorious Gilead 
Guards are to be called to the front, and we may 
yet make a brilliant record on some field to be 
historic. For I tell you when we do move the un- 
derpinning of the rebellion will give way. 

"'Our heavy artillery don't expect to do any 
flirting with dangerous weapons. Do we want to 
go ? Most of us do, I truly believe, and if all the 
talk amounts to nothing a good many will be dis- 
appointed. But you know the hunter turned pale 
with fright when, on inquiring of the woodman if 



COM FOR T-BA GS. 20 1 

he had seen any lions' tracks around there, he was 
told that the lion himself was near by. It may be 
so with us. It is certain that General Sedgwick 
has asked for this regiment, and I for one am tired 
staying around here drilling, digging ditches, etc. 

" ' I suppose you have begun to make sugar by this 
time, and I'd give a month's pay if I could go up 
to our old sugar place and help father tap the 
maples. George and I got talking about it last 
night, till we could smell the sap and the birch 
and see the snow-banks under the trees with chip- 
munks scurrying over them. 

" ' And then we thought of father plodding 
around there all alone, and I tell you what ! — it 
was dark in our tent, and I sha'n't say whether we 
had wet eyes or not. It's nobody's business. Gov- 
ernment don't pay any thing extra for smiles.' " 

There fell a little silence after this, and the girls 
could hardly set their stitches, for they, too, were 
paid nothing "extra for smiles ! " and it was very 
easy in those days to shed a few tears over a home- 
sick soldier-boy's letter. 

But Benjie could never keep a newspaper to him- 
self, and he was soon slapping his knee, according 
to his usual habit, as he exclaimed : 

"Good enough! Grant's been to Washington, 
and they've made him lieutenant-general. Since 
then seems 's if every thing had started up lively, and 
I tell you there's going to be a spring campaign 
that'll finish up our quarrel, I believe." 

A few minutes later there was another concus- 
sion, and a " Hear this, will you ? Guess we better 
have a regiment sent up here to Vermont. ' Cop- 



202 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

perheads in Jeffers.' I don't believe it's more 'n 
fifty miles from here as the crow flies." 

He then proceeded to read : 

" ' Rev. Mr. Stowe, of Jeffers, is a patriotic minis- 
ter who is not ashamed to preach his sentiments. 
Unfortunately, a portion of his flock are Southern 
sympathizers — that is, copperheads. A week ago 
they took possession of the church, armed- with blud- 
geons, and locked the doors, declaring he should 
not preach there again. One man tried to get in 
through a window, and they felled him to the ground. 
But during the week there was a mighty reaction, 
and last Sunday he was escorted to the church by two 
hundred citizens, and he preached. It need hardly 
be said that his theme was loyalty to the govern- 
ment.' " 

" Good enough ! " ejaculated Benjie again. 
" There's some excuse for the rebs themselves— 
they've been brought up with slavery ; but I just 
despise a copperhead 's bad as King does- And 
that makes me think of the best joke. Yes, I know 
the sap-buckets 'U run over, but I must tell you this. 
It happened when I was in Green's this morning 
after those tin spiles. You know Lib Slocum's 
going up to the ' White Mountings ' this summer to 
help spend some of the money old Slopum has 
made out of government." 

This was a bit of neighborhood gossip, repeated 
with a fine scorn for "shoddy" and disloyalty until 
it had become a stock phrase. 

" But you didn't know Lib was home from Bos- 
ton ? She is, though, and came tiptoeing into the 
store with a green silk dress on and her ribbons and 



COMFORT-BAGS. 203 

dingle-dangles all a-fluttering. She looked so kind 
of airy and foreign that I got behind the plows in 
the back part of the store. But I could hear. She 
minced up to the counter, and says she, ' Mr. Green, 
I believe? ' " 

At this absurd recollection Benjie fell off the 
bucket which was his seat and finished his story 
on the floor. 

" Then she had over a lot of palaver about Boston, 
and wound up by buying four yards of cloth and a 
spool of thread and one of those little hooks that 
you twist thread round to make trimmin'. Well, 
Green looked awful stony-like in his face, jus' as if 
she'd asked him for a subscription, but he rolled up 
her things and tried to change the bill she handed 
out. It was a twenty-dollar bill, and he fumbled 
through his till and then went over to Barstow's 
corner before he could fix it. By 'n' by he brought 
along the change, and then, then, sir, she handed 
him back the bundle and told him she'd thank him 
to send it out to her ' papa's ! ' " 

After an interval of laughter Benjie continued : 

"You'd ought to 've heard Green talk after she 
went out. He almost swore, and he said he'd 
throw her things into the road ; but Barstow told 
him to carry out the joke. He advised him to have 
his hired man take the big wagon and span and 
drive up there with a flourish, and have two or 
three fellers to help carry the bundle into the house. 
They'll spread the story all 'round aforehand, of 
course. I'll bet they'll have lots of fun, and I'm 
going over to-night to see." 

Having finished his story Benjie hurried away to 



204 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

gather the sap, while Esther and Mary discussed 
the matter as they filled the "comfort-bags." 

" To think that Lib Slocum, who couldn't learn 
the multiplication table to save her life, should have 
money to throw away, while we can't even afford to 
go off to school ! It isn't fair," said Mary, bitterly. 

She had the same feeling that you have had, per- 
chance, when some addle-pated human received the 
shekels which you could have used so wisely. 

" But we mustn't forget how the money came," 
said Esther. " Every body says her father has been 
just as dishonest as he could be with those con- 
tracts and that he may be obliged to run to Canada 
yet." 

" He can be spared, and I do hope Rast will go 
too. It just makes me mad to see so much mean- 
ness driving 'round behind those splendid black 
horses of theirs." 

" Rast would be delighted to add your good sense 
and respectability to his turn-out," suggested Esther. 

" Me ! " and Mary, quite unable to express her 
indignation, began to prepare their noonday lunch, 
while Esther went out where the sunshine fell 
through interlacing trees to read her precious letter. 

Don's convictions were similar to John Henry's, 
and he, too, was anxious to see what real war was 
like. 

A little later word came that the "Guards" were 
ordered to the front. 



SELF-DENIAL SUPPLIES. 205 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

SELF-DENIAL SUPPLIES. 

THE Standard of May 27, 1864, brought the 
following urgent message from Mrs. Daven- 
port, the State Superintendent of the Sanitary 
Commission : 

" My latest dispatches represent the greatest 
need of every thing for use on the battle-fields. 
Those towns in Massachusetts that received dis- 
patches Saturday evening, turned out en masse and 
sewed all day Sunday and continued their work 
till the compaign was over. We can have no other 
thought now but to do every thing in our power to 
help the sufferers and thus to strengthen the army. 
If we do all we can, and stimulate every man, 
woman, and child to do their part, it does seem 
that this terrible conflict may be brought to an end, 
for at length we have a leader.* Cannot the ladies 
of your town suspend all other interests, and all 
work resolutely to supply what cannot be bought 
in market at any price ? Cotton and flannel gar- 
ments, slippers, socks, quilts or spreads, dressing- 
gowns, every thing that can be needed — there is no 
danger of a mistake. Old cotton and linen are 
much wanted, and maple-sugar and dried fruits. 
The commission sent two steamers of two hun- 
dred tons capacity, fully laden with supplies, and 
* General Grant. 



206 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

with a large corps of trained relief agents and 
nurses, male and female, from Baltimore into the 
James River, to follow General Butler's column and 
reach the army of General Grant that way. Two 
other boats went from Washington laden in the 
same way on the ioth to Aquia Creek, thence to 
send supplies and agents across the country to 
Fredericksburg. 

" Now we must send supplies to take the place 
of these as fast as used — tons per day — among our 
tens of thousands of wounded. 

" The wounded of the enemy must also be cared 
for. Every stitch is of consequence, and they ap- 
peal to the women of every house to help carry for- 
ward this mighty work. The government is doing 
what was never before done by any government or 
dreamed of. But the medical bureau is not allowed 
to advance its stores, so the commission does the 
brunt of the work in first reaching the sufferers, and 
its ambulance-train bears them off to the reach of 
the government supplies and surgeons. Send by 
express (for this emergency) to Brattleboro." 

The women of Gilead thought they were doing 
about all they could through the " Soldiers' Aid," 
but when they heard this bugle-blast there was a 
general uprising. 

Mrs. Plumley and Doctor Adams's wife took a 
carriage as soon as the call came and drove from 
house to house through the village and far beyond. 

But what could these country women give more 
than they had given ? Why, they gave what they 
wanted to keep ! 

There was old Grandma'am Pike who had some 



SELF-DENIAL SUPPLIES. 207 

linen sheets which she had kept years and years. 
She went to the big polished bureau with its brass 
handles, which stood in the everlasting twilight of 
her " best room," and got down upon her stiff old 
knees before the lower drawer. 

"They're a part o' my settin' out," said she, piti- 
fully, looking up into Mrs. Adams's animated face. 
" And I never 'spected to part with 'em, never ! 
I spun the flax on my own little wheel and the 
thread was 'mazin' fine, and I made 'em up with 
uncommon little stitches, too — none of 'em's broke 
in all these years. But if the soldiers want 'em, 
and need 'em, they'll hev to go ; " and overcoming 
her natural selfishness — a hard thing at her age — 
she pulled out four soft, fine sheets, while the faded 
rose-leaves in which she had packed them fluttered 
down like butterflies' ghosts upon the carpet. 
" Could ye jest write, ' These come from Grand- 
ma'am Pike,' and pin it onto them ? Then if our 
Gilead boys got 'em they'd know I didn't feel no 
ways stingy toward 'em." 

"Yes, indeed, I will mark them," assented Mrs. 
Adams, as she gratefully received the precious gift. 

This was an inspiration to others, who said : " If 
Grandma'am Pike's given away her linen sheets its 
time for us to give away our keepsakes." 

Mrs. Rollins grimly presented a " rising sun " 
bed-quilt, wishing in her heart that it might find 
its way to Thomas, but quite sure that, whatever be- 
came of it, she had done her duty by her country. 

But most of the gifts were from those who forgot 
themselves entirely in the overwhelming desire to 
help. 



208 THE GILEAD GUARDS, 

Little companies of ladies gathered that evening 
to make shirts and other articles, sewing until long 
past rest-hours. Indeed, away up on the side of 
the mountain, lights burned all night at Mrs. Smith's 
and Mrs. Hickey's as they plied their needles. 

Esther had already begun her summer-school in 
the "mountain district," earlier than usual, in the 
hope that she might go to Hope Seminary in the 
fall. 

A note and a copy of the appeal reached her 
early in the afternoon, and at three o'clock she dis- 
missed the scholars, telling them how the poor sol- 
diers were suffering, and that every body was going 
to give what they could right away to help them. 

"Teacher," said Jasmine Ripley, her hand up- 
held, eagerly, " do you think they'd like maple- 
sugar hearts? " 

"Yes, indeed! they ask for maple-sugar; but 
don't rob yourselves, children." 

Poor little things ! With their bare, brown feet, 
and plain, cheap clothing, they did not look as if 
they had any thing to spare ; but as she watched 
them trooping up the shady roadways Esther felt 
quite sure that some of them were already planning 
their little sacrifices. She herself hastened to call 
upon Vic Armstrong, as the one most likely to aid 
in this emergency. And it was a pleasure now to 
" run up to Vic's," for a marvelous change had come 
to the little woman and her home. 

As Esther approached she saw her, sewing in 
hand, seated between two trees near the house. 
Always pretty, Vic was doubly attractive now in 
her clean, neatly fitting calico dress, with muslin 



SELF-DENIAL SUPPLIES. 209 

ruffles at neck and wrists. Her beautiful hair was 
coiled up in a net whose wide silken meshes could 
not conceal its shining abundance. 

" O, Vic, how nice you look ! I believe I must 
kiss you," said Esther; and Vic, smiling and dim- 
pling, sprang up to kiss her friend, not once, but 
thrice. 

" How well your yard looks, and how your flowers 
are springing up!" and Esther looked around ad- 
miringly upon the hints of beauty in that once 
desolate front yard. 

" Yes, I guess it's because I have the sun here all 
day. Frank helped me last night, and set out vines 
all over that stump, like Mrs. Stubbs's. I've got 
lots of seed in, too ; and, Esther, I've made a tidy 
for my big rocker — yes, ma'am, and finished it ; and 
now I'm making a pretty patch-work quilt." 

Esther turned and looked admiringly into the 
animated face. 

" O, Vic, isn't it nice ! How different every thing 
seems ! " 

" I know it ! " cried Vic, impulsively. " O, what a 
little fool I was ! Why didn't somebody take me 
and shake me? Well, you may laugh, and I 
know you're thinkin' that I didn't like to be shaken 
very well. But, Esther, what's school out so early 
for? It can't be four o'clock." 

Then the story was told, and, pausing only long 
enough to put a clean dress on Nellie, the two 
started, with the little maiden between them, to 
visit the most accessible homes. 

Mrs. Stanley, who had become a sort of patron 
saint to these two girls, made a quick response, her 
14 



210 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

eyes kindling as she heard the appeal. From a tiny 
closet she brought a handsome dressing-gown gayly 
lined with soft crimson. 

" I am sure Donald would wish me to send this 
if he were here ; " and she held it up lovingly. 
" He always took so much comfort in it Sun- 
days, after church, and evenings when we two 
were alone." Struggling to suppress her emo- 
tion, she continued after a little : " I do hope it 
will cheer some poor fellow in the hospital. And 
I might as well put his slippers with it. Yes, I 
will. Why should I stop to ask if he will want 
them some time in the future? No, the need is too 
great." 

And Esther bit her lips, forcing herself to smile, 
glad indeed to see even these sacred things given, 
but questioning within herself, 

" Why should she speak as though he might not 
come home? " 

As they left the house with their precious pack- 
age Vic said softly : 

" Don't you remember when some of the folks 
found out that Don had a dressing-gown ? They 
said he was ' putting on airs,' and wanted to be as 
fine as the minister. But Joe says he's brave as a 
lion about every thing. Joe says he helps Elder 
Putnam in the meetings, and he says it takes real 
grit to speak and pray there, when so many of the 
boys laugh at such things. I guess the folks here 
at home '11 think a little different when he gets back ; 
and Joe's sure he'll be a captain or something be- 
fore long." 

All of which was very pleasant to Esther's ears, 



SELF-DENIAL SUPPLIES. 211 

but she walked on silently, the dressing-gown and 
slippers held tightly against her heart. 

Mrs. Labrique, the sturdy little Frenchwoman, 
who lived in a log-house by the brook, listened with 
many exclamations of sympathy to their appeal 
and gave a pair of fat feather pillows for " the head 
of them to lie soft on." 

A grim, unapproachable spinster at the next 
house listened in absolute silence, and as silently 
extended to them a pair of soft wool socks, just 
finished. 

Mrs. Spinner greeted them with a downcast 
countenance. 

" Bub told me what you said, teacher, and I 
want to help, but I haint nothin' to give. Now, 
that aint the truth — not quite, only ' so to speak ! ' 
Because I've got some dried ros'bries, and I've 
been savin' 'em till you come here to board. If I 
should send 'em to the soldiers you couldn't have 
any sass all whilst you was here, for there aint an- 
other livin' thing to make sass of. Now, you may 
guess my mind's been all topsy-turvy ever sence 
Bub come home from school ; " and with her face 
quivering all over with emotion Mrs. Spinner car- 
ried her apron to her eyes. 

"Why, Mrs. Spinner, I don't want any sauce. 
I'd rather have the berries go to the soldiers if you'd 
like to send them ; "' and Esther put her young arms 
around the poor tired woman, hardly knowing 
whether to laugh or cry. 

" Would ye now? Be ye sure you could stan' it? 
Well, then, I shall do it, for nothin' makes me feel 
quite so discouraged and good for nothin' as not to 



212 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

be able to give ;" and, wiping away her tears, Mrs. 
Spinner soon brought forward two or three quarts 
of nicely dried berries. 

" They're beautiful berries as ever was. Bub 
and Irene picked 'em right upon the slope yonder," 
said she, all in a glow of satisfaction, as she tied 
them up securely in a clean salt-bag. 

A few more calls and they paused at Mrs. 
Stubbs's, whose deft fingers soon cut and basted a 
plain hospital shirt, upon which they sewed dili- 
gently until late in the evening. 

When Esther went to unlock the school-house 
door at half past eight the following morning she 
found a dozen boys and girls waiting, each one 
bearing a package. 

" O, teacher, we've brung our sugar-hearts," 
shouted Flora Denhurst, " and we'd rather give 'em 
than not." 

Sure enough, the little packages contained cakes 
of maple-sugar, both round and heart-shaped, 
amounting to several pounds, according to scales 
used by mortals. How much they weighed when 
love and self-denial were added, who can tell? 

" Teacher, I bit off a corner of my heart," con- 
fessed Flora's little sister Josie. " It's very sweet. 
Do you think the soldiers '11 care ? " and fearing 
some one might call her selfish she hid her face in 
Esther's dress and began to cry. 

" No, dear, if the soldiers could see your little 
white teeth, and could know how much you love 
maple-sugar, I'm sure they'd think this was the 
sweetest cake in the box. But who brought this?" 
holding up a bundle tied with a good fish-line. 



SELF DENIAL SUPPLIES. 213 

Byron Smith nodded in reply. 

" That's spruce-gum and slippery-el-lum," said he. 
" Me and the girls got it, and mother said 'twould 
be good for a change." 

" So it will. The slippery-elm is ever so good 
for a cough. But why did you put this nice fish- 
line around it? Wont you want it? " she asked. 

Byron's face reddened. 

" Yes'm, but I wanted to send it. There wasn't 
nothin' but common string unless I took that." 

Esther understood, and the fish-line went. 

Within four days the box was packed and sent. 
The list of articles it contained was published in the 
Standard, and may be of interest : 

"Sixteen sheets, 3 quilts, 13 cotton shirts, 6 
woolen shirts, 5 dozen towels, 71 rolls bandage, 
7 rolls flannel, 4 rolls cotton cloth, I large bundle 
linen, 1 dressing-gown, I pair slippers, 5 pair socks, 
2 bottles wine, 16 pounds dried berries, 17 pounds 
dried apple, 41 pounds maple-sugar, \ pound 
spruce-gum, 6 feather pillows, I dozen arm-slings, 
2 comfort-bags." 

A few days later one of Vic's characteristic little 
notes reached Esther begging for a call directly 
after school. The little mistress of the cottage was 
evidently in trouble, for she met her friend with red 
and swollen eyes and every appearance of distress. 

" Why, what is the matter with you, Vic ? Have 
you had bad news from Joe?" queried Esther, 
throwing her hat upon the table, taking up the 
perplexed baby and seating herself in a listening 
attitude. 

" I don't know — that is, may be you wont call it 



214 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

bad news. Read Joe's letter — that page, and 
this." 

Esther began at the point indicated and read : 
" I guess you'll be surprised, and I hope glad, to 
know that I am trying to be a Christian. It aint 
any thing sudden, for I've been thinking about it a 
good while. You see I didn't know, Vic, that men 
could be so awful wicked as some of these soldiers 
be. And when I saw them drinking and gambling, 
and heard them swear, it roused me clear through. 
I wished I had power to strike them down in their 
tracks. You see I felt like they was rebels, not 
against the country, but against God, and I felt like 
fighting for the government of high heaven. And 
the more I heard, the worse I felt. I declare it was 
as if they was abusing my best friend. But then I 
began to think that I was a rebel, too, for I hadn't 
done any thing to show which side I was on. One 
day I felt so stirred up over it it seemed as if I'd 
die. So then I hunted up Don Stanley, and he 
found Elder Put, and we had a prayer-meeting. 
They prayed and I prayed, and I tell you before 
meeting was done I knew which side I was on. It 
wasn't hard, because the recruiting office was wide 
open, and when I'd once made up my mind there 
I was, an accepted volunteer ! Just as sure of it as 
I was when my name went on the list up in Gilead 
that I was one of the Guards. O, I tell you, Vic, 
when you think of your poor Joe in a battle now 
you needn't be afraid" — the bottom of the page 
was reached, and Esther's eyes were full of happy 
tears. 

" Why, Vicky, isn't it grand ? I should think you 



SELF-DENIAL SUPPLIES. 215 

would be singing for joy. Tell me what there is to 
cry about," said she, pleadingly. 

"Joe was good enough before," exclaimed Vic, 
pettishly. " He didn't do any thing wicked ; he 
was 'way up above me in goodness, and I've just 
been trying to catch up to him for a whole year. I 
found out he was studyin' books then and getting to 
know more than I, so Frank and I bought books too, 
and studied last winter 'most every night. I learned 
lots of things, just to surprise him. And you know 
how I've learned to cook. Why, my bread is 'most 
as good as Mrs. Stubbs's ; Frank says so. And we've 
got the farm all paid for, and fixed up things real 
nice, all for him. And now, now, when I begun to 
think I was just about as he would like to find me 
when he comes home, now he goes and gets to be 
a Christian and goes 'way, 'way beyond me again. I 
can't bear it, Esther, I really can't bear it!" and 
down went her head into baby Nellie's lap, within 
reach of Esther's caressing hand. 

For a few moments Esther did not know what to 
say. Absurd and childish as Vic's reasoning was, 
she knew that it meant a great deal to her. So she 
sat in the silence of the little room praying very 
earnestly for wisdom. 

" Vic, dear," she said at length, " who has helped 
you so far in trying to catch up with Joe, as you 
call it." 

" You have," was the low answer. 

" But if I have done any thing it was because 
God put it in my mind, for we don't do good things 
naturally. So if he hadn't helped you you could 
not have overcome your bad habits as you have. 



216 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

And the same Spirit that has helped you has lifted 
Joe up another step higher than either of you had 
reached before. Joe was willing to be helped, but 
God is just the same always toward every body. So 
if you really want to catch up to Joe again you 
needn't stay behind a single day unless you choose. 
Joe talks about it like a soldier, but we can be sol- 
diers in Christ's army, Vic, as well as the men. And 
you know Joe has done right. He came to a place 
where he must be a better man or a worse man 
than ever before. What if he'd begun to drink and 
swear ? O, Vic, it is the best news you ever had ! 
And it is just as he says, if he goes into battle now, 
even if he should be killed you would know he was 
safe." 

Little Nellie had been looking with wide, solemn 
ev£s into Esther's face, and as she paused she 
clasped her little hands and lisped, " Tan I say my 
pray-er now?" Not waiting for a reply, she began 
in reverent tones, " Our Fa'ver which art in heav- 
en," closing as she always did, " B'ess Papa Joe, 
keep him all safe, and b'ing him home to mamma." 

With a little cry Vic caught the child to her 
heart sobbing, " O, baby, you and I must catch up 
to Papa Joe, yes, we must ! " 



TWO LIVES FOR ONE. 217 



CHAPTER XIX. 

TWO LIVES FOR ONE. 

" And I saw in a vision how far and fleet 
That fatal bullet went speeding forth 
Till it reached a town in the distant North, 
Till it reached a house in a sunny street, 
Till it reached a heart that ceased to beat 
Without a murmur, without a cry ; 
. And a bell was tolled in that far-off town, 
For one who had passed from cross to crown. — 
And the neighbors wondered that she should die." 

— Longfelloiv. 

IT was a beautiful morning in early June, and as 
Esther started from her boarding-place — she 
was now at Mrs. Spinner's — her heart seemed to 
respond involuntarily to its rhythm. June mornings 
have often been immortalized in prose and poetry, 
but in the mountain district, where Nature so nearly 
had her own way, there was a kind of original fresh- 
ness which was simply indescribable. It was as if, 
for the sake of those who lived there in a pinched 
and lonely style, a little panorama of days had been 
planned full of quiet revelations and surprises. Mrs. 
Spinner's twins, Adna and Alta, who were nearly 
four years old, had that summer begun their scho- 
lastic career, much to their mother's relief and Es- 
ther's perplexity. A pillow had been sent to the 
school-house with the two babies, on which one 
curly head, and sometimes both, reposed for a long 



218 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

nap every forenoon. These two cherubs clung to 
their beloved teacher as they ran clown the mount- 
ain-path puffing in unison, as though they had but 
one pair of lungs between them. 

It was early, for Esther liked to " set copies " be- 
fore school ; but the twins were to play by the 
brook under certain restrictions which had been 
vigorously impressed by their mother. As they 
reached the main road Esther saw Hiel Saunders 
riding rapidly toward her on one of Squire Fletch- 
er's farm-horses. As he saw her he slackened his 
speed, finally checking his horse to say : 

" You hain't heard the news, have ye?" 

Hiel's face looked drawn and agitated, and Esther 
asked, with a vague alarm : 

" What is it ? Do you mean bad news from the 
army ? " 

Hiel nodded. 

" Awful ! You see our boys was in battle day 
before yisterday, down to Cold Harbor, and they 
got all cut up. The list come las' night, and squire 
and me 're out to notify the friends. I'm goin' to 
Widder Stanley's an' then up to Hickey's V Smith's, 
an' so on round this deestrict." 

" Mr. Saunders, were any of them killed ? " Es- 
ther forced herself to ask. 

" Killed ! I guess they was ! Don Stanley, 
George Hickey, two of the Smiths, either two of 
the boys or him an' one boy, we don't know which. 
Then up t'other way there's Thomas Rollins 'n' Fol- 
linsbee. O, I can't tell ye ; there's a long list of 
'em." 

Hiel drew his hand across his eyes and struck his 



TWO LIVES FOR ONE. 219 

horse sharply, as though he could not venture an- 
other word. Esther stood as he had left her for an 
instant and then sank down at the foot of a huge 
maple, whose roots reached into the roadway. For 
a brief time a great darkness mercifully shut out 
the glory of the morning. With her head against 
the tree-trunk and hands clinched tightly in the 
moist brown earth she sat stunned, crushed, help- 
less. Then a wood-bird cleft the air overhead, 
alighting upon a swaying bough, and from his little 
throat burst a song so shrill and sweet, so full of 
abandon, that it reached the stricken heart like a 
sharp needle-thrust, and she drew a long, quivering 
breath. 

" O God ! O God ! " she moaned, " I don't want 
to live any longer ! " 

Then followed a few moments of intense and 
silent suffering, such as humanity can bear and still 
live. God makes us so. And then the sound of 
children's voices, high-toned and full of musical 
trills, echoed through the woods. 

Esther belonged to a race of strong-nerved men 
and women, and the habit of self-control and self- 
repression was as forceful within her as life itself. 
To conceal her pain — this was her first thought. 
She was not formally " engaged " to Don Stanley, 
hence, according to Gilead's social laws, had no 
right to " mourn." The fear of curious question- 
ings, the dread of the children's keen eyes even, 
touched her pride, and by the time they discovered 
her she stood pale and quiet under the tree. 

" O, teacher, can't we trim up before school ? 
It's goin' to be awful hot to-day, so me and Flora 



220 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

got these to fill the winders with," panted Irene 
Wells as she hurried down the hill laden with clean, 
cool branches of maple and birch. 

"And I've got evergreen for your desk and the 
stove," added Jasmine, whose love for pretty things 
led to all sorts of devices in decorating the bare 
walls and rusty stove. 

She linked her arm into Esther's, whispering : 
" You look pale this mornin', teacher. Wont 
you let me hear the baby classes for you ? " 
"Yes, dear; my — my head aches, I believe." 
Her voice sounded far away and strange to her- 
self, but Jasmine did not notice as she talked on in 
a womanly fashion, still giving the welcome sup- 
port of her arm. As they approached the school- 
house a cry of distress was heard, and Esther soon 
found that Adna and Alta, forgotten and neglected, 
had fallen into the brook, from which Bub had just 
rescued them. They were crying in unison, and, for 
the first time, Esther made no effort to check them. 
As she wiped their hands and faces and sent them 
home in Bub's charge she was grateful for the diver- 
sion which gave her a chance to creep into the cool, 
empty school-room while the children were examin- 
ing the brook critically and discussing how the twins 
fell in. And she still waited, bending over a copy- 
book with dry pen in hand, while the curtainless win- 
dows were being filled with fragrant branches; then, 
like a wounded officer who would not " fall back," 
she began her monotonous round of duties. 

"Teacher! teacher!" It was little Josephine 
whose hand was raised. " Can't we sing the com- 
ing-home song which I like so well ? " 



TWO LIVES FOR ONE. 221 

" She means ' When Johnnie comes marchin' 
home again.' We all want it," seconded her seat- 
mate. 

" Children," said Esther, after a little, " will you 
be willing to give up singing that this morning? 
Let us take ' We thank thee, Lord, for morning 
light.' " 

That was the hardest test of the day, for the 
children could sing the song grandly and it had al- 
ways been an inspiration, but now ! Could she ever 
sing it again ? It was some time before she remem- 
bered that she was not alone in this new sorrow ; 
but, as Byron Smith came to her with one of his 
profound questions she suddenly thought, " Why, 
your home is under the shadow too! " Yes, and 
more than one or two would be found among those 
who mourned ; but she resolved to keep them 
through one more day in ignorance of it, if possible. 

It was nearly noon when Hiel rode up to Mr. 
Steele's door and, without dismounting, rapped 
with his whip-stock to attract attention. Miss 
Hancock, who had been sent home from Washing- 
ton several weeks before, worn out with hospital 
service, was visiting there, and was relating some of 
her experiences to Mr. and Mrs. Steele when they 
heard the summons. 

" Somebody wants me, I'm almost sure," said Miss 
Hancock, as the two women hastened to the door. 

" You've heard about the fight down to Cold 
Harbor, I s'pose?" began Hiel. 

" No ; our boys went up to the hill farm early 
this morning. Do tell us what's happened," said 
Mrs. Steele. 



222 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

So he told his pitiful story again, only interrupted 
by the sympathetic ejaculations of his hearers. 

" All the partic'lars haint come yet," said Hiel, 
but it looks 's if they'd had a desp'rate fight, with 
thousands killed ; and amongst 'em a good many 
Vermonters. It beats all what lots of our boys 
has gone. Doctor Adams read the list, and it was 
dretful to hear. Mis' Follinsbee, she stood there 
in the crowd, and when she heard Hi's name she 
gin one cry and sunk right down on the floor. I was 
close by, 'nd helped carry her home. I never c'n 
stan' round 'n' not help when any body's in trouble;" 
and Hiel looked around half fiercely, as though 
some one had questioned the propriety of his ac- 
tion. 

"Of course not, but what became of her? Who 
took care of her?" asked Miss Hancock. 

" Wal, we laid her on the bed, and the children 
begun to cry, and we gin her some water, and by 
'n' by she come to, and then I sent over some of 
the women. I tell you, Miss Hancock, this war's 
dretful hard on the women. I don't never covet 
another job like what I've done this morning— car- 
ryin' sech news to half a dozen poor creetur's. 
Squire needn't send me no more. I don't exactly 
worry over any of 'em, 'less 'tis Widder Stanley. 
And thet's what I come this way fur. I wish 't 
you could git up there, Miss Hancock. Seems 
to me she'd ought to have some woman there a 
spell." 

" Why, Hiel, what do you mean ? Tell us all 
about it," said Miss Hancock, anxiously. 

Hiel's voice was husky, and he had to clear his 



TWO LIVES FOR ONE. 223 

throat before replying. At length, with his face 
turned quite away from his listeners, he began : 

" I rode up there, you know, 'n' rapped easy, fer 
I could hear the widder singin' somethin' about Je- 
rusalem. She come to the door, 'n' says she in her 
soft way, ' Is it Mr. Saunders ? ' ' Yes'm,' says I, 
dreadin' what would come next ; but there come a 
strange look into her eyes, 's if she mistrusted ; 'n' 
she says, ' Tell me the very worst.' So then I did. 
Wal, she put her hand up here " — indicating his heart 
— "kinder quick, 'n' says she, ' Are you sure?' I 
says, ' I'm 'fraid I be, ma'am. Can't I do somethin' 
fer ye ? ' But she said ' No,' 'n' thanked me — actually 
thanked me fer comin' up. Then she went back 'n' 
shet to the door. But someway I was dretful un- 
easy, feared she might faint away, so I jes' sidled 
round to the winder, and looked in over the currant- 
bushes. She jus' got down on to her knees 'n' be- 
gun to pray; that's what she did. Tell you, it made 
me feel cur'ous. Some folks seem to be on dretful 
good terms with spirits ; but I never see any body 
act 's if she belonged to the family 's the widder did. 
You'd thought Jesus Christ was right close by. 
Wal, I aint no hand to talk, but it made me feel 's 
I did once when I stayed to communion, waitin' fer 
squire's wife. I couldn't stan' it, so I got away. 
But it kinder worries me. Think you'll git up there, 
Miss Hancock? " 

Both women had been quietly weeping while 
Hiel was talking, and Mr. Steele was nearly as much 
affected as he sat in the door-way. 

" Yes, I'll go up right away, Hiel ; the walk will do 
me good," said she, heartily. "There's hospital 



224 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

work here in the North, I'm thinking, only it isn't 
the poor wounded body that needs help after a 
battle." 

" That's so," said Hiel, as he turned his horse and 
rode slowly away. 

Two hours later Miss Hancock was walking 
slowly toward the mountain, above which ominous 
clouds were gathering, with mutterings of distant 
thunder. It was quite dark as she reached the little 
cottage, shaded now by clouds and trees, and she 
was glad to step uninvited into the little entry. 
Pausing a moment to collect her thoughts, she 
tapped gently upon the kitchen door. There was no 
response, and after another louder knock she vent- 
ured to open it. The kitchen, neat and orderly as 
it always was, seemed to be empty, but fearing to 
intrude further into the room she spoke : " Dear 
Mrs. Stanley, will you let me come in and try to 
comfort you? I have been wanting to come and 
tell you about Donald, ever since I got home." 
Still there was no reply, and as the storm was 
rapidly increasing she entered, closing the door and 
groping her way to a chair. 

Thunder-storms among the mountains are often 
terrible in their violence, and this one seemed to 
descend with a peculiar swiftness, as if to en- 
fold the little settlement. The room grew very 
dark, save when it was illuminated by flashes 
of lightning; and after a sudden hush, as if to 
draw its breath for greater conflicts, the storm burst 
with torrents of rain. The trees outside swayed 
over the tiny house and the rain dashed spitefully 
against the windows, while the wind came tramp- 



TWO LIVES FOR ONE. 225 

ling through the woods like a separate force, more 
of earth than air. Above all solemn thunder-peals 
echoed and re-echoed. 

Miss Hancock was not greatly disturbed by the 
tempest. To be sure, she sat with tightly clasped 
hands listening with a feeling of awe to the " war- 
ring of the elements," but she was more anxious 
about her poor friend and her own duty. 

At length she rose, saying, softly, " It is no kind- 
ness for me to sit here, for if she ever needed a friend 
she needs one just now." Approaching the bed- 
room, she found the door ajar. One glance within, 
and, filled with vague forebodings, she turned back 
to light a lamp, with which she entered the room. 
Don's mother was lying upon the bed, her white 
face pressing the pillow as if in natural sleep ; 
but the white hand which Miss Hancock clasped 
was cold and lifeless. " Beyond the storm ! beyond 
the storm ! you and Don together, just as you would 
have had it," she murmured, her tears dropping 
fast. But the next moment she rose to meet this 
unexpected emergency. With the skill gained in 
hospital experience she applied such restoratives as 
could be found, pausing not an instant until con- 
vinced after a long-continued effort that her task 
was hopeless. " O, I wish Doctor Snow was here !" 
she exclaimed, overwhelmed with a sense of her iso- 
lation and helplessness. 

But, looking at the quiet form before her, she 
knew very well that no earthly physician could do 
more than had been done. Covering it gently, she 
whispered, " What time I am afraid, I will trust in 
thee;" and thus dividing the burden that seemed 
15 



226 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

heavy she sat down by the bedside with a feeling 
of sacred companionship and waited for the storm 
to subside. And this was not long delayed. The 
mutterings of thunder were now distant and low, 
the wind crept away to its hiding-place, and with 
timid thankfulness shrubs and flowers rose from 
the earth and stood glistening in the sun, which soon 
shone as brightly as ever. This surprised and radiant 
expression, which all nature wears after such a 
tempest, is one of its compensations ; and the paean 
of praise sung by wild birds over their deliverance 
is another. 

Miss Hancock knew when the storm ceased, knew 
that the sun was shining, but still sat thinking and 
mourning alone, arousing herself at length only in 
response to a timid rap at the door. 

" Why, Esther, is it you ? I was wishing the Lord 
would send one of his servants, for my strength is 
almost exhausted," she exclaimed as she admit- 
ted the young girl. " But, dear child, you look 
strange! Esther — Esther — has that ball struck 
your heart too? Wait a moment — " 

" O, Miss Hancock, I've been waiting all day. 
Let me see Mrs. Stanley," pleaded Esther, losing 
her self-control at last and yielding to the kind 
arms which enfolded her with a " Poor child ! poor 
child ! " 

Drawing her to a seat, Miss Hancock waited until 
the first bitter but blessed tears had brought relief, 
and she again whispered : 

"Where is Don's mother? I know she wants 
me." 

Then she softly replied, "Yes, you shall see her; 



TWO LIVES FOR ONE. 227 

but — can you bear to know that she has gone — to 
meet her soldier-boy?" 

A moment later Esther looked upon the patient, 
peaceful face, and knelt by the bedside. Into her 
bewilderment and grief a strange exalted sense of 
divine interposition had entered. She had looked 
forward all day to this meeting with Don's mother, 
for they two understood each other, and they would 
lock the door and weep together ! This had been 
her thought ; but Someone had come with a mes- 
sage, and, instead of waiting to mourn with her she 
had gone on to rejoice with him. But would they 
not remember her, left so lonely and desolate? 
Esther had a very simple faith. She could not have 
explained the holy influences which met her as she 
knelt so long in the silence of that little room — in- 
fluences which lingered with her always ; but when 
she read from the word, " And there appeared an 
angel unto him from heaven, strengtheninghim" she 
felt sure that she knew — just a little — of what it 
meant. 

In the midst of its wide-spread sorrow Gilead 
paused to " do its duty " by her who had lived 
among them like a stranger. There were some who 
would have found a certain enjoyment in entering 
the house and examining all that was in it ; in 
whispering and "guessing" around her helpless 
form ; in seeking to rind in box or drawer or desk 
some clew to her former life and position. But Miss 
Hancock was there, and curiosity itself had a whole- 
some respect for her rights as friend and supervisor. 
The strong maiden lady who had stayed with Mrs. 
Stanley every night since Don's departure took 



228 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

charge of the necessary preparations, and Miss Han- 
cock and Esther alone examined such effects as 
were left in the cottage. They found finely em- 
broidered clothing for the shrouding, so rarely fine 
that Miss Hancock but expressed the thoughts of 
both when she said : 

" Our friend has known, sometime, what it was to 
have the best that money could buy." 

They also found a large package of Don's letters, 
marked, "To be burned in case of death," and in an 
envelope money more than sufficient to meet all 
expenses. But beyond these and the limited ward- 
robe, furniture, and books, nothing remained. 

" It seems as if she was all ready for the journey," 
they said. 

And the people came reverently in their Sunday 
clothes to the funeral. Indeed, there is nothing 
like a funeral to touch and unite the hearts of 
country dwellers. They were now ashamed to re- 
member their cold, unfounded criticisms and harsh 
judgments, and tried to atone by speaking gracious 
words of their "departed sister" and calling to 
memory her unfailing kindness. Heaven forgives 
much, and probably this last bungling attempt to 
" do as they would be done by " was placed to their 
credit. But we know there were genuine mourn- 
ers there who never could forget. And others, 
wearing the crape which told of their own slain, 
came — it seemed the right thing to do in those 
days — some of them almost envying her whose 
hands were so serenely folded for the last sleep. 

But Gilead had not yet paid her full share of the 
" national debt." Beautiful June had not numbered 



TWO LIVES FOR ONE. 229 

her days before the town was thrilled with news of 
another calamity. Some Union troops set to guard 
a railroad, most of them Vermonters, were attacked ; 
some were killed and wounded, and four hundred 
were taken prisoners ! 

Joe Armstrong's name headed the first list, brave 
Captain Bartlett, John Henry Hickey, and Vic's 
brother Chester were among the prisoners, while 
David Douglas and others of the Guards were 
wounded. 

" Some things are worthless, some others so good 
That nations who buy them pay only in blood, 
For Freedom and Union each man owes his part, 
And here I pay my share, all warm from my heart." 

— Standard (Gilead, Vt.), of July, 1864. 



230 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER XX. 

"YOUR VEGETABLES OR YOUR LIFE!" 

" 1 ADIES, what shall we do ? " It was a reg- 
J — * ular meeting of the "Soldiers' Aid," and 
every woman was at work — some sewing, some 
scraping lint, some rolling bandages ; but they all 
paused and looked toward Mrs. Plumley with per- 
plexed faces. But they had no answer to the new 
appeal she had spoken of, nor the question which 
followed it. 

" Wouldn't it be well to have the secretary read 
Mrs. Davenport's letter? Perhaps all the ladies 
haven't seen it," suggested Miss Hancock. 

Mrs. Adams came forward, and, taking the letter 
from the president's hands, read as follows : " ' I 
presume you have heard before this of the condition 
of our army from the presence of scurvy among the 
men. Since the trying campaign opened they have 
subsisted for many successive days on the rations of 
the haversack alone. We must have a supply of 
vegetables, says one of our major-generals, or the 
results will be disastrous; and Grant's forces cannot 
and must not meet such an enemy in their own 
ranks. We must therefore canvass every neighbor- 
hood, and gather together every peck and half-peck 
of any of these vegetables that families have left, 
for there is nothing of the kind in market to depend 



"YOUR VEGETABLES OR YOUR LIFE /" 231 

upon. Cannot ladies canvass the towns in your 
county without delay, to procure whatever can be 
found of an anti-scorbutic nature — potatoes, onions, 
pickles of all kinds, prepared cabbage, etc. If even 
one barrel can be sent from every town it is worth 
a hundred times the trouble and cash value of the 
article.' " 

Mrs. Rollins turned her pale, severe face toward 
the table. "Can we stan' many more such calls? 
Does any body know when there'll be an end of 
'em ? " she inquired. 

" Nobody knows," replied Mrs. Plumley, sadly. 

" Perhaps this will show us that we can't stop yet ; " 
and Mrs. Adams took up a paper and read : " ' Pres- 
ident Lincoln has issued a proclamation calling for 
five hundred thousand volunteers, to be raised by 
the fifth of September, or drafted immediately aft- 
erward.' " 

A low exclamation of surprise and pain ran 
around the room. 

Miss Hancock looked anxious. " That only 
means," said she, slowly and impressively, " that 
Lincoln means to bring the struggle to an end. 
And there isn't one here who isn't willing to 
work to the last moment for our brave boys. 
We've suffered too much and too long to shirk any 
thing that's necessary to be done." 

" Yes ; we must work till our boys 're all dead or in 
Libby Prison," said Mrs. Rollins. 

" Sister Rollins, your boy and mine never 
grudged what they gave to their country, and we 
mustn't," said Mrs. Douglas, laying her firm, steady 
hand upon her impatient, heart-broken neighbor. 



232 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

" My David writes from the hospital, ' Don't fret 
about me, mother ; I'm no better than thousands of 
the boys who were killed, and none of us 're too 
good to die for our country.' " 

"I'm sure we're all ready to do what's pos- 
sible," said Mrs. Fletcher. " The question in my 
mind is, Can we get these vegetables? We women 
wouldn't hesitate a minute, but perhaps the men 
wont see it as we do." 

" And are they to be found any way, for love or 
money? " inquired Mrs. Akers. 

"There's enough!" and Martha Thompson bit 
off her thread with a snap. " There's men in this 
town jus' mean enough to hold and withhold to 
make money. There's potatoes and turnips and 
onions in many a sullar. Next thing is to get 'em 
out." 

" Your vegetables or your life ! — we must make 
that our motto," said Mrs. Adams. 

" Gilead has shown its loyalty, as we know very 
well, but if our brethren are suffering a relapse 
we women must wake them up. Perhaps that's a 
part of our mission," suggested Mrs. Plumley. 

" That reminds me of something I found in a New 
York paper. I cut it out and put it in my pocket for 
your benefit," and drawing her chair to the center 
of the group Miss Hancock read: "' A gentleman 
on a train near New York city the other day, speak- 
to a friend across the car, said, " Well, I hope the 
war will last six months longer ; if it does I shall 
have made enough to retire from business. In the 
last six months I've made one hundred thousand 
dollars. Six months more and I shall have enough." 



"YOUR VEGETABLES OR YOUR LIFE!" 233 

A lady sat behind the speaker and heard his re- 
marks. When done she tapped him on the shoul- 
der, and said, " Sir, I had two sons. One was killed 
at the battle of Fredericksburg, the other at the 
battle of Murfreesboro." She was silent a moment ; 
so were all around. Then, overcome by her indig- 
nation, she suddenly slapped the speculator, first on 
one cheek, then on the other, and before the fel- 
low could say a word the passengers sitting near, 
who had witnessed the whole affair, seized him and 
pushed him out of the car, as one not fit to ride 
with decent people.' " 

" Good ! " said Martha Thompson ; " that's good 
enough to frame.' " 

" We don't expect to have to deal like that with 
any of our brethren who may be a little — little 
stubborn," continued Miss Hancock, " but that's 
the spirit we need. We've got to feel that money 
is nothing along-side of life and liberty. It's the 
good old Revolutionary spirit that kept our ances- 
tors from drinking tea when they wanted it. We've 
got to tell our men-folks that we must have these 
vegetables, money or no money. They wont have 
scurvy if they go without potatoes a few weeks. 
Now, I'm not very strong yet, but I'm willing to go 
to the men you think will be hardest to deal with. 
I'll take a big wagon and some boys and baskets 
and start to-morrow morning. And I move, Mrs. 
President, that committees be appointed to canvass 
the whole town as soon as possible." 

Every woman was soon pledged to do her share 
of the work, even Mrs. Rollins, who had no idea of 
standing alone. She even emphasized her position 



234 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

by declaring, " Not another potater nor pickle 
passes my lips till new ones come in." 

" Every potato saved is a potato earned. Let us 
show our faith by our works," said Miss Hancock. 

The loyal Gileadites of our story were still loyal 
as a whole, but these days of '64 were very trying. 
Every body but speculators was weary of the war. 
The country was about to face another presidential 
election, and as the struggle drew near parties and 
factions drew farther away from each other. The 
disaffected, the grumblers, and the discouraged 
were approached by such men as were avowed cop- 
perheads, and beset with the political arguments of 
that era. 

The rebellion could not be crushed ; the Northern 
army had no efficient officers ; France was about to 
declare war against the United States; greenbacks 
were sure to become worthless ; these and similar 
opinions were scattered as widely as possible by 
such newspapers as were accused of being bribed 
by Southern supporters. McClellan, beloved by 
so many soldiers, was Lincoln's rival in the contest. 
It was not strange that many honest but unfortified 
judgments were bewildered by a comparatively 
few leaders, who, according to the stanch, out- 
spoken Standard, were " ready to perform the office 
of national assassin, and plant the stiletto deep in 
the vitals of the Goddess of Liberty ! " So much 
for a few of the " predominating causes " which in 
this case threatened to mix politics and potatoes ! 

But the women were thoroughly in earnest, and, 
in spite of " haying," secured teams, boys, and 
baskets quite sufficient for their purpose. Indeed, 



"YOUR VEGETABLES OR YOUR LIFE!" 235 

there was a surplus of boys, if any thing ; for the lit- 
tle fellows were strangely impressed that it would 
be " fun alive " to help fill those barrels. 

Among the names given Miss Hancock were 
those of Mr. Slocum, Mr. Green, and a well-to-do 
old bachelor named Dunlap, who, with two spinster 
sisters, lived on a large and valuable hill farm. 
Our acquaintance with the gentlemen first named 
makes it unnecessary to state that they were " hard 
cases," but even they yielded at length to our 
friend's eloquence. 

" Wouldn't give a pertater to any body but you," 
persisted Mr. Slocum. " But 's I tell my wife you've 
been down there to nuss, 'nd I cal'late we'll need such 
sarvice some day. We're all more or less likely to 
get sick. Don't ye see we be ? " 

In the afternoon she seated herself in Mr. Fletch- 
er's " mill wagon," with several baskets around her, 
and two boys, Johnnie Clark and Baxter Bartlett, 
on the front seat to drive the old gray horse. 
Having called upon two or three rather inaccessible 
women, from whom she received a supply of pickles, 
she told the boys to drive on to Mr. Dunlap's. 

" 'Spect to get any thin' there ? " asked Johnnie. 

" Certainly !" was the undaunted reply; where- 
upon the two boys exchanged skeptical glances. 

Mr. Dunlap had in some way learned that the 
women were " taking the town," and as rapidly as 
possible he was " sorting over," as he called it, his 
potatoes, of which he had a fine supply. Into one 
barrel he threw the small and imperfect ones, while 
into several others he tossed the large ones which 
he intended to hide from all prying feminine eyes. 



236 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

While he was still sweating over his task in the 
security of the cellar he heard a light footstep on 
the stairs, and looked up to meet Miss Hancock's 
smiling countenance. 

"Well done, Mr. Dunlap ; your sister told me I 
would find you here. These are beauties ! " and she 
took up the big, white specimens from the barrel. 
" The very best potatoes I've seen to-day. And it 
isn't every man that takes the pains to pick out all 
the little ones. Come, boys, bring down your 
baskets." 

"I — I — didn't mean — a man must look out for 
his own first," stammered the perspiring bachelor. 

" Yes, our own poor boys ! how often I think of 
them, sick and wounded on battle-fields and in hos- 
pitals. I don't wonder you feel that nothing is too 
good for them. If ever we ought to live on hasty 
pudding and milk it is just now while they are suf- 
fering for vegetables. You'll have a sweet reward 
for this, Mr. Dunlap. Here, boys ! " and, with her 
back turned toward the small potatoes, Miss Han- 
cock waved them toward the other barrels, and Mr. 
Dunlap, rubbing his soiled hands upon his over- 
alls, actually helped the little fellows, until four 
bushel baskets were full to the brim. Johnnie and 
Baxter opened their eyes very wide as they de- 
posited them in the wagon, but said nothing. 
Miss Hancock thanked the bewildered and some- 
what exasperated donor, assured him of a " blessed re- 
ward," and was soon driving on toward a big yellow 
house with a small colony of barns, which crowned 
the next hill. As the old horse slowly jogged along 
the quiet road Johnny turned around and drawled : 



"YOUR VEGETABLES OR YOUR LIFE!" 237 

" Miss Hancock — I — don't — b'lieve — Ben Dun- 
lap ever meant them p'taters for us." 

" No, dear ; not for us. They are for the poor 
suffering soldiers," said she. 

The shrewd little Yankee, who knew the reputa- 
tion of the old bachelor very well, looked toward 
Baxter with a knowing smile, and asked him in a 
low tone if he could " see through a hole in the 
wall with his eyes shut." 

The town was quite thoroughly canvassed before 
night, and as a result nine barrels of vegetables of 
various kinds, with several jars of pickles, were 
shipped the following day. 

The necessity for exertion and these extra calls 
for supplies were a blessing beyond measure to 
those who had been so sorely bereaved. Some had 
farms and families to care for, while others were 
able to devote themselves almost wholly to the 
soldiers. 

Poor Vic, who was nearly frantic in her grief over 
Joe's death, clung to Esther and refused to be com- 
forted. She had lived the last year— a year of won- 
derful transformation — on the hope of his return ; 
for her richest reward was to be his pleasure in 
what she had done. " It wouldn't seem so hard, 
Esther," she moaned, " if he could have just come 
home to see what we have done, and if he could 
know how sorry I am for the way I used to do 
things. O, my poor Joe ! " 

" No, Vic ; not poor Joe, for he's better off; you 
know that. What if he had been shot before he 
became a Christian, and before you were one ? Just 
think, Vic, how much you have to be thankful for," 



238 THE GILEAD GUAFDS. 

Esther said, forcing her own blighted hopes into 
the background in her new character of comforter. 

" O, I know it, but I don't feel it. I pray with 
my lips, but in my heart I almost hate God for taking 
Joe. He could have saved him so easy, and he 
was worth saving." 

Vic was leaning back in her large rocker, and the 
face which lay against the " finished tidy " was thin- 
ner and paler than when we saw it last. That day 
had revived her agony by bringing back to her the 
last letter she sent her husband. A comrade had 
sent it, writing her that it had been the only clew to 
his identification. It had been in his breast pocket, 
and was deeply stained with blood from the fatal 
wound. 

" Perhaps you ought to be thankful he was shot 
instead of being taken prisoner," said Esther, dream- 
ily. " They are suffering such tortures at Libby 
and Andersonville. The paper says that more than 
a hundred are buried every day at Andersonville. 
Mother thinks Austin is there, it is so long since we 
heard from him ; father thinks he's dead. It's 
dreadful not to know." 

" Poor Chester is somewhere in one of these 
horrid places if he is alive," said Vic. " I ought 
not to forget him. Isn't it strange that we can be 
so full of trouble that we can't think of things. I 
don't know what baby would have done those first 
few days if Frank hadn't taken care of her — and he 
feeling as bad as he could over Joe and Chester, too. 
It didn't seem as if I could do anything; but I 
must — I must for baby's sake." 

" Don't you think we could help get something 



"YOUR VEGETABLES OR YOUR LIFE!" 239 

ready for the wounded soldiers?" suggested 
Esther. "You know you'll have lots of blackber- 
ries up in your pasture, and blackberry cordial is one 
of the things they want. Mrs. Plumley has the rule 
for making it. I'll help pick them after school 
every afternoon, and I'm sure we can do the rest, 
working together." 

" Well, perhaps," said Vic, wearily. "I'm going 
to try not to be selfish." 

And the weak, helpless men who received that 
cordial, spoonful by spoonful, never knew it was 
made by two heroic women in the backwoods of 
Vermont, who, in an effort to benefit them, had 
themselves received more than they gave. 



240 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER XXI. 

HIEL'S EXPERIENCE. 

PERHAPS the kindly side of New England 
character was never shown more clearly than 
in the case of soldiers' families. Especially were 
the widows and orphans of those slain in battle ac- 
cepted as a sort of sacred legacy by the general 
public. The war debt might be discussed in the 
post-office, and political feeling run high ; but as the 
nine o'clock bell rang, and men filed away to their 
homes, they did not forget to take mail or groceries 
to some lonely woman. 

Abram was still active in this department, start- 
ing many a little wave of interest in behalf of the 
needy which was never traced back to him. Hiel 
Saunders, too, was a faithful member of the home- 
guard, and so developed by the services of his 
benevolence as to bring upon him Martha Thomp- 
son's criticism, who declared that " Hiel wasgettin' 
rather soft," which term in Gilead was not alto- 
gether complimentary. Perhaps Martha ventured 
that remark after she noticed his interest in Mrs. 
Follinsbee's welfare. This poor little widow, with 
her three fatherless children, had seemed to have a 
special claim upon Hiel after the night she heard 
of her husband's death. He had taken her many an 
opportune gift, and succeeded in chopping her fire- 



HI EL'S EXPERIENCE. 241 

wood by doing it very secretly sometime between 
sunset and sunrise. She had been alarmed to find 
a fresh supply, and told some neighbors she could 
not explain it, "unless Hiram had come back;" 
hearing which, Hiel remarked, somewhat tartly, that 
it was " a good, sensible thing for a ghost to du, 
but as Hiram wasn't no great hand to saw wood 
while he was here, seems 's if he wouldn't be apt to 
du it now." Mrs. Follinsbee had read to him the 
last letters she received from her husband, and was 
humbly grateful for his sympathetic interest ; but 
meanwhile he had become more interested in her 
than in the letters. His knowledge of the demands 
of custom was Very limited ; hence, without consult- 
ing any book of etiquette, he resolved to win her 
regard as soort as possible by a judicious and gener- 
ous oversight of her interests. Acting upon this 
resolution he selected a variety of vegetables one 
day in early September, packed them in a large 
basket, adding a sprinkling of pink-cheeked harvest 
apples, and took them to her gate on his way to 
mill with the squire's grist. Tommy and Alice 
and little Hiram came running toward him, looking 
with curious eyes upon these prospective riches. 

"O, ma! come see what's been brung," cried 
Tommy ; and seizing her dress he dragged her to 
the door. " Now we can have somethin' but 
'tatoes." 

" Well, you've robbed yourself, I know, Mr. 
Saunders," said Mrs. Follinsbee, her face reddening 
with pleasure. "You really shouldn't bring me so 
much." 

"I didn't know but what they might come ac- 
16 



242 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

ceptable, seein' ye have so many mouths to feed," 
he replied, removing his big straw hat. 

" O, yes ! " and there was a little catch in her 
voice, just a hint of the need that made them more 
than " acceptable ; " " but I don't like to have folks 
put themselves out for me." 

"No put out at all, Mis' Follinsbee ; I've got 
more sass than I know what to du with. My little 
farm yields like all possessed — makes me feel 's if I 
must put up a house 'n' have sullar room for it ; " 
and Hiel leaned against the rude railing which kept 
the children from falling, with his eyes fixed upon 
the basket. 

"Why don't you, then ? " asked the widow, inno- 
cently. 

Hiel's heart began to beat tumultuously, but he 
recognized his opportunity. 

" I will, if you'll come 'n' live in it ; " and then 
with increasing courage he went on : " I thought 
I'd just let ye know how I feel about it, fer I can't 
bear tu see ye sort of strugglin' with adverse fate, so 
to speak; and if you agree I'll make things real 
easy. I'll build a house with a bay winder 'n' a 
piazza; 'n' if you want posies out in front, why, 
have 'cm ! I don't care ; " and Hiel ventured a 
glance at the blushing face in the door-way, feeling 
that he had made a good, generous offer which no 
woman could refuse. 

But to his surprise she began to cry, saying, be- 
tween her sobs, " O, I can't, I can't ! It's temptin' 
— nobody knows how hard 'tis for a woman to get 
along when she hasn't any thing to do with — and I 
like you real well ; but I can't marry a man that's 



Ill EL'S EXPERIENCE. 243 

an unbeliever ; no, no ; I cannot ! " and then the 
little woman sought her rocking-chair just inside the 
door and strove to put away the temptation. But 
the tempter followed her. 

" O, sho, now ! " ejaculated Hiel, distressed be- 
yond measure. " I ain't no unbeliever. Ever hear 
o' my lyin', stealin', or killin' any body?" 

" No, no ! not that ; but you don't go to meetin', 
and I'm afraid you don't believe the Bible. I want 
to bring up the children to be good." 

Hiel suddenly felt the weight of a crushing re- 
sponsibility, and looked at innocent little Tommy 
and Alice, now serenely munching apples, as though 
he saw them for the first time. Very humbly he 
said, " May be I could jine the church, you know." 

Mrs. Follinsbee raised her flushed face with a 
startled look. " O, Hiel! I don't want you to join 
the church until you're converted. That wouldn't 
m ike any difference. If you was a Christian I'd 
know it, and I wouldn't look at any thing else. I'm 
not a very good one myself — I make a good many 
crooked paths ; but I wouldn't dare to marry a man 
that wasn't tryin' to walk with me." 

Hiel drew a long sigh. " I'd never interfere with 
ye in any way, shape, or manner. I'd go to 
meetin' and stay in to prayers in the mornin'." 

She almost laughed. " Bless your heart, you'd 
have to pray yourself! But I don't want no man 
to get religion on my account. You want it because 
you need it to live by and die by. So now I've 
had my say. Temptin' as you make it, with a new 
house and all, I can't listen. I think I've done 
right." 



244 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

Hiel flung himself away in a rage, but she was 
not angry. It might have been better if she could 
have had that energizing experience ; but instead 
she sat and cried until the little ones gathered 
around and lifted up their voices in bitter lamenta- 
tion. She saw before her a lonely, impoverished 
life, a long struggle with the world, which oftenest 
presented itself to her discouraged soul as a huge 
monster with a special spite against women, and the 
prospect was appalling. But, nevertheless, her con- 
science was dominant. Perhaps the time will come 
when such natures are rare, but New England nurt- 
ured many in the early generations; undeveloped 
and untrained, perchance, but as true to their con- 
victions of right, as self-denying, as the best of their 
Puritan ancestry. Whatever modern materialism 
and criticism may say upon the subject, it was that 
religious element, true and tough, which gave New 
England character its peculiar charm, and stamped 
it unmistakably as 

" Law and goodness, love and force, 
Wedded fast beyond divorce.". 

Such a character thinks much of its own ap- 
proval, and so in the midst of her desolation, beset 
by her womanly fears and weakness, our friend was 
able to endure because she " thought she had done 
right." 

Meanwhile Hiel lashed the horses on through the 
village and down " mill hill," the same road which 
Abram had taken on his memorable ride. Men 
looked after him in surprise, and Barstow, who hap- 
pened to be in the store door, called out to him, 



HIEL'S EXPERIENCE. 245 

and then muttered : " Wonder what's riled up Hiel, 
anyhow. Never knew him to 'buse squire's horses 
before." The hill was steep, and Hiel drew the 
frightened creatures back upon their haunches and 
sawed their bits furiously, then whipped them again 
as they reared and tossed their heads. He swore 
at them, too, and that was what brought him to his 
senses, for swearing was not allowed in his creed of 
morality. He looked around in a half-frightened 
way, but no one was near. The mill was left be- 
hind, and he had come into the cool level river road, 
bordered by woods, and full of the charming tints 
and quiet sounds of the approaching autumn, be- 
fore he succeeded in stopping the horses. Then, 
very much astonished and ashamed of himself, he 
crawled over the front of the wagon like a weak 
old man, and began to pat their wet flanks. They 
looked at him with dilated eyes and quivering nos- 
trils, inquiring as well as they could if this was 
indeed their old friend Hiel. He plucked green 
leaves from the trees and fed them, then let them 
pull down branches for themselves while he clam- 
bered back to his seat to " think it over." He had 
never cared for any one as he cared for this over- 
worked, sorrowful little woman ; and, being a far- 
seeing man, he had supposed she would feel thank- 
ful to accept his proffer of home and fortune. 

" Je-whitiker ! " he ejaculated ; " if she thinks I 
aint 's good 's Hi Follinsbee she's mistakened. 
He wasn't wuth a tow-string fer business ; couldn't 
save any more'n a sieve. Women must be fools 
any way!" But Hiel knew very well that her 
simple refusal would not have aroused such a 



246 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

temper-tempest as he had passed through. It was 
the reason she gave. "Ay! there's the rub!" 
Because he wasn't a Christian she couldn't marry 
him ! He had, so far as Gilead air was favorable, 
cultivated the " idea " which is cherished by thou- 
sands of men : ' Some Christians are full of faults ; I 
have but few faults ; therefore, I am better than 
some Christians.' To be sure, he was a red-haired, 
weak-eyed, country-bred logician, but logic does 
not dictate as to the color of the hair or strength 
of the eyes. He was a true disciple of comparison, 
with an honest admiration for consistency ; but for 
some reason his creed gave him no comfort now. 
He was enraged at that, at himself, at the truth, 
which sometimes has a way of turning and looking 
at men as Christ looked at Peter, which is very un- 
pleasant. The terrible oath he had uttered seemed 
to take shape and mock his discomfiture, and as 
he turned the horses slowly toward the mill he mur- 
mured : " If a man was like corn, now, 'n' could be 
put in the hopper 'n' groun' up fine, may be he'd 
come out good fer somethin'." Wherein it may be 
seen that Hiel had found a weak place in his 
logic. 

That very evening Hiel sought Abram, and 
having enticed him into the barn, where they could- 
lean against a fragrant hay-mow, with the moonlight 
slanting through wide open doors, he found courage 
to ask counsel. 

" You told me yerself to come if I ever got into 
a scrape," said he. 

"I haven't forgotten," replied Abram, cordially. 
" I don't pass a day but I think of your kindness 



HI EL'S EXPERIENCE. 247 

and patience; and sometimes I've wondered if you 
ever regretted lending me the money." 

" Never; not a mite! If I'd put in with Slocum 
'n' his son-in-law a-spee'latin' may be I'd 'a' got 
neck-deep in meanness. 'Stead o' that I've made 
fairly well, I take it. I've lent government a few 
hundred. Squire says there's no question but 
she'll pay up one o' these days; 'n' then I bought 
that piece o' land, you know. Squire didn't want me 
to leave, so he let me have it cheap, 'n' it's powerful 
good land, too. But I didn't come to talk money- 
to-night, 'n' you can't guess within ten rows o' 
apple-trees what I du want." 

And then, having found a stick to whittle, Hiel 
related the episode of the afternoon. Abram was 
both surprised and amused ; but, being appealed to 
for advice, replied: 

" Why, I think, in the first place, that you were in 
too great a hurry. It was only the first of June 
that Hiram was shot, not quite four months ago." 

But Hiel shook his head. 

" Hiram 'd been away two years. Don't ye forgit 
that. It aint 's if he'd died here to home. And 
she never said a word about bein' too sudden. 
That don't trouble me none, but it's the other thing 
— the bein' or not bein' a Christian." 

"Well, Hiel," said Abram, soberly, "you know 
very well that you ought to be one, for you aren't 
a heathen. And I've often thought you must be a 
Christian at heart, you're always so ready to do 
good." 

Again Hiel shook his head. 

" That's what I thought myself up to this morn- 



24S THE G I LEAD GUARDS, 

in', but I know better now. I'd give a hundred 
dollars this minute if I knew jest what to do." 

"Why don't you ask the minister?" inquired 
Abr.im. 

" O, he's too young," responded Hiel, in a de- 
spondent tone. " He's well meanin', but I should 
scare him — I know I should. If 'twas Mr. Phelps I 
wouldn't mind." 

" Why not go to the old minister then ?" 

Hiel squinted along the edge of the stick he held, 
and drew a long breath. " You see how 'tis, Abram, 
he uses lots of long words, good words, too, but I 've 
no idee of the dictionary meanin'. What if he 
sh'd ask me if I was predestinated to be elected ? I 
couldn't say one word, 'cause I don't know. It 
would tangle me all up, sure 's you live, Abram," 
said Hiel, in a changed tone. "Couldn't you jest 
tell me how to git started ? Seems to me I'd ought 
to know ; but I declare to you it's jest 's dark 's that 
corner over there beyond the moonshine." 

" Yes, of course I can ;" and Abram's voice grew 
tender with his theme. " If you mean that you want 
to be a Christian — not so you can marry Mrs. Fol- 
linsbee — but because it is the right thing to do — " 

" Yes, sir ! that's what I mean ! " asserted Hiel. 

" Then it's all plain. If Jesus was on earth to- 
day, and you should hear that he was at the Center, 
for instance, would you be satisfied to hear what he 
was doing, or would you want to go and see for 
yourself?" 

" Go, of course ! " 

" The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same 
yesterday and to-day and forever ; so if you want 



FUEL'S EXPERIENCE. 249 

to know about him, and especially if you want to 
be cured of any disease, you must do now as you 
would have done then, go to him yourself and ask 
him for all you need." 

" That seems easy," said Hiel. 

" It is easy. And remember he has promised to 
save every one that comes in this way. Just tell 
him you're sorry you didn't come before and con- 
fess your sins, and God can't help accepting you, 
because he has promised, and all his promises are 
' yea and amen in Christ Jesus.' " 

" Now, hold on ! I c'n go so fur — I c'n b'lieve 
that things 're all fixed up strong at that end. 
'Twould be an awful sin to cheat a world full o' 
human bein's, 'n' I don't b'lieve he ever done it, do 
you ? Now, then " — and Hiel's voice grew intense 
and low — " what I want to know is how to get on 
to that promise, so I c'n feel sure I'm there, 'n' he'll 
see me 'n' jest 'tend to the rest of it." 

" Why, Hiel, seems to me it is like this : There's 
a bridge over the river between here and the vil- 
lage, and you want to go across. You never think 
of stopping to calculate whether you can get on the 
bridge or not. You keep walking till you step on 
full weight. You actually have to do it of your 
own free will. Now, this promise is your bridge, 
and — " 

" I've got holt o' thet, 'n' don't you say another 
word. I'll work this thing out — now you see ! " 

And out of the barn, through the clear moonlight, 
Abram watched Hiel stride away. He did " work 
it out," with divine help, that very night, and it 
was not long before all through the country-side 



250 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

spread the news of his wonderful conversion — 
" wonderful " because, within their narrow reason- 
ing, this was outside the ordinary channels of spir- 
itual refreshing ; but it proved the beginning of a 
gracious and gentle revival which flowed like heal- 
ing waters through the churches. The terrors of 
battle-fields and hospitals, the oft-repeated shocks 
of bereavement, the desolated homes, empty chairs, 
and aching hearts, had made a place for the coming 
of the Comforter. 

Hiel gave himself heartily to the new phase of 
existence which opened before him, finding no 
weariness now in " goin' to meetin' " five nights in 
a week, and his quaint, joyous testimonies were 
decidedly helpful where the general tone of piety 
was inclined to be distrustful. 

But for several weeks Hiel made no effort to meet 
Mrs. Follinsbee. With natural sensitiveness he 
feared she might suspect him of hypocrisy, while she, 
in turn, was equally distressed lest, having met the 
conditions, he might think she looked for his return. 

In due time, however, a happy combination of 
circumstances enabled them to become reconciled 
without serious compromise, and it was not long 
before Gilead was saying, laughingly or reproach- 
fully or dubiously : 

" Hiel Saunders is engaged to Hi Follinsbee's 
widow ! What can the man be thinking of?" 

That was what Squire Fletcher asked him confi- 
dentially one morning in the harvest-field. 

" Why, Hiel," said he, " wife and I thought per- 
haps you and Martha would make a match, and we 
could keep you both." 



HIEL'S EXPERIENCE. 251 

" Wal, now, squire," responded Hiel, " I'm sorry 
to disapp'int any body, but Marthy's tu brisk. She 
never lets ye feel that there's any time to rest. I 
never expect to eat no better vittles than Marthy 
cooks, but I tell ye she keeps her eye on the nut- 
cake pail ! Then, squire, she aint no ways han'- 
some. She's jest like a Lumbardy popple — right 
up 'n' down, straight 'n' scant 's you please. Now, 
Mis' Follinsbee's purty, I think, 'nd when she gets 
dressed up other folks '11 say so tu. She needs nice 
clo'es, like any woman, 'n' I tell ye there's lots 
of women that's beholden to their clo'es more 'n 
you've any idee." 

The squire was much amused over Hiel's ideas, 
and chuckled at intervals all through the afternoon 
as his eyes would fall upon a couple of Lombardy 
poplars which had stood, year after year, a picture 
of independent ugliness in a field near the roadside. 

"Yes, that's Martha — straight and scant as you 
please," he would say. 



252 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

FROM THE SHADOW OF DEATH. 

VIC ARMSTRONG had been up since early 
morning engaged in " cleaning house." As 
such work was not natural to her she was apt to 
keep watch of the movements of other housekeep- 
ers, and also to follow rules of domestic science laid 
down in books and papers. Mrs. Stubbs, who was 
governed by an intuitive knowledge something like 
that which governs birds and bees, had taken up 
her parlor carpet ; hence Vic had followed suit, and, 
by an all-day siege, had made her chambers sweet 
and clean, and put the tiny parlor into its most 
cheery condition. But in opening boxes she had 
come across Joe's letters in their many-hued, patri- 
otic envelopes — letters he had written the first year 
of enlistment ; and now, as she rested after the hard 
day's work in her favorite seat between the two 
trees, she held a package in her lap, reading and 
crying over them. It had been one of those dreamy 
autumn days when every thing wears an unreal as- 
pect. The voices of men at work in the fields, the 
crowing of chanticleer, the barking of a neighboring 
dog, sounded as though they echoed from some 
other world just outside our own. The sunset rays 
were now slanting across the little " front yard " as 
though loath to leave. Vic's flowers were past their 



FROM THE SHADOW OF DEATH. 253 

season of beauty, except some sturdy coxcombs and 
asters, but along by the stone wall nodded double 
rows of golden-rod — " yaller weed " the farmer folk 
called it, and voted it a nuisance ; but Vic liked to 
have it hide the wall, and thus far it had escaped 
Frank's threatening scythe. 

Little Nellie, now nearly three years old, was 
gathering great bouquets of red and yellow leaves, 
which, after a few weeks of gorgeous display, were 
slowly fluttering to the ground. But she saw her 
mother's tears and came panting through the heaped- 
up leaves, with her hands full, to inquire, 

" What for does mamma cry? Baby sinks papa 
Joe comin' very soon." 

This was the charming little sentence she had 
learned long before, but now it brought no comfort. 

" No, no ; papa wont come ever again ; " and, 
pressing the little one close, Vic's tears fell faster. 

" Nellie ask Uncle Frank ; I can find papa ; " 
and wriggling away from her mother the child 
trotted down the roadway, her little feet rustling 
musically through the leaves. She reached a tree 
which marked the limit of her journeyings, and then 
paused, her hands clasped behind her back in an 
old-fashioned way, her dainty little head held at one 
side in a listening attitude. There was a sound of 
approaching wagon-wheels, but it was not " Uncle 
Frank" nor Grandpa Shaw. Clapping her hands, 
she said, " Somebody come 'at baby knows ; " and 
watched eagerly as the horse slowly drew near and 
stopped a few feet away. The driver jumped to the 
ground and carefully assisted another man — tall and 
gaunt, wearing an old light-blue soldier's overcoat 



254 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

— to alight. Handing him a cane and a parcel, he 
turned slowly, saying, as he did so, " You'd ought ter 
let me drove clear up to the door ; I wouldn't 'a' 
charged a cent more, 'n' I'll bet it '11 be too much 
for ye." 

As for little Nellie, she gave one frightened 
glance, and started toward her mother. 

But the man had seen her, and as he rested for 
an instant upon his cane he said, in a strange, 
hoarse tone, " Nellie — baby — go tell mamma — 
papa's coming ! " 

The little thing could not have comprehended his 
meaning, but, stumbling up the slope as fast as 
she could with outstretched hands, she cried, shrilly, 
" Baby's sure Papa Joe's comin' very soon." 

Her tone startled Vic, who sprang up from her 
reverie and started toward her, saw the stranger, 
and stopped again. Her heart seemed to stand 
still as she watched him. Had the battle-field given 
up its slain ? And then with a little cry she almost 
flew over the space between them and clasped in 
her arms all that she could hold of the unshaven, 
threadbare, hollow-eyed soldier. 

" Joe, Joe ! tell me it's truly you ? " she gasped. 

And the husky voice that answered convinced 
her: "Yes, Vic, poor little wife; all that's left 
of me ! " 

It was fortunate for both of them that the house 
was near, for Joe's strength was well-nigh exhausted. 
But Vic helped him over the clean hard walk be- 
tween the flower-beds, into the kitchen, and on the 
lounge. With trembling hands she removed cap 
and coat ; got a pillow under his clear head ; 



FROM THE SHADO W OF DEA TIL 255 

brought water, camphor, milk — every thing she 
could think of — and waited until he could speak 
again. 

Reviving a little, he smiled, and said, " It was 
'most too far to come — without resting — but I 
couldn't wait." 

And then, kissing him very softly, Vic calmed her 
self to whisper, "Joe, dear, where have you been 
since last June ? " 

" Andersonville ; didn't you know? " he asked in 
a surprised tone. 

" No ; the paper said you were found, and my 
letter was in your pocket," she replied. 

" I handed it to Chester just before the battle. 
Poor Chester! " said Joe, greatly moved. 

" Never mind now. We'll talk of that by and by ; " 
and Vic with rare forbearance closed her lips very 
tightly. Then she brought water and gently bathed 
his face and hands, brushed the long hair away from 
his forehead, keeping back the cries that almost es- 
caped her lips as she realized his extreme emacia- 
tion. 

Little Nellie drew nearer, her eyes full of wonder 
and pity, and at length laid one soft little hand 
upon his face. Joe drew it to his parched lips, and 
tears began to roll down his sunken cheeks. But 
even then, while they watched him tenderly, he fell 
asleep. 

Frank's return was most opportune, and, allow- 
ing him but one glimpse of Joe, Vic sent him with 
all speed to the village for Doctor Snow and Miss 
Hancock. Fortunately they both came, and by 
nine o'clock Joe was in a clean bed, ready for a 



256 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

night's rest, and able to smile upon them all as he 
murmured, " This must be like heaven ! " 

" There were two of the exchanged prisoners in 
the stage to-night, somebody told me," said Miss 
Hancock, as they left the room ; " but Joe must have 
got a team to bring him right over from the land- 
ing. Mr. Hickey happened to be in the village, and 
they say he took John Henry home in Mr. Plum- 
ley's carriage. One of the others was Homer Smith. 
Judson Plumley was just discharged from the hos- 
pital and happened to come from Washington with 
them, so he took Homer home for the night. There 
was a great stir over Lieutenant Plumley ; as many 
as a hundred people gathered around the post-office, 
I should think. O, thank the Lord that some of 
our boys are coming back ! " 

This was the signal for Vic's enforced calmness to 
give way, and with tears and hysterical laughter she 
clung to Miss Hancock, while the old doctor patted 
her shoulder, and said, in very unsteady tones, 
" That's right ! that's right ! Cry all you want to ; 
only cry easy, so Joe wont hear." 

But Joe was in- little danger of being disturbed. 
His strong physique had apparently succumbed to 
hardship and privation as many a feebler one had 
not ; and the stupor into which he sank that night 
was the prelude of other nights and days, when, 
barely clinging to life, he lived over again and again 
his Andersonville experience. 

The home-coming of these prison-starved soldiers 
had been without warning, hundreds having been 
exchanged at the same time and sent as rapidly as 
possible in many different directions. Hence, there 



FROM THE SHADO IV OF DEA TH. 257 

were many joyful, painful surprises all through the 
North. The few who came to Gilead were but a 
fair type of the entire company; enough could they 
have been seen together in their squalid misery to 
call the nation to its knees ! 

But we must climb the hill to witness the arrival 
of another old friend. 

Mrs. Hickey, whose face bore the lasting impress 
of sorrow, and whose black dress told the common 
story of bereavement, sat in her neat kitchen in the 
early evening awaiting her husband's return from 
the village, when, instead of the steady tramp of the 
old horse, she caught the sound of wheels slowly 
approaching the house. 

" Emmeline, take a candle and see who's coming. 
It can't be father, for he went horseback," said she. 

The little girl was soon in the door-way, shielding 
a flickering light with one hand while she peered 
out into the darkness. 

"Hullo, Emmie! Who d' you think I've got 
for a passenger?" called her father, with a curious 
laugh. 

Mrs. Hickey came and stood behind Emmeline, 
and as she appeared a strange, reedy voice from 
within the carriage called, " Mother!" 

She extended her arms with an answering cry, 
and the next moment gathered her bony, disreputa- 
ble-looking boy to her longing heart. 

" Is this the way they send you home, John 
Henry?" she sobbed, when under the lamp-light of 
the kitchen she saw his forlorn appearance more 
fully. " O ! what have they done to you, my boy? " 
And with eager, trembling hands, she drew him to 
17 



258 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

the arm-chair beside the fire, and removed his cap, 
clasping him again in an ecstasy of bewilderment 
and joy. 

" Tried to starve me, mother," said he, with a 
pitiful attempt to be merry. " The rebs thought 
they were doing God service by killing off Yankees, 
and they actually thought they were going to pick 
my bones ; but I thought I'd rather give 'em to 
Vermont crows. So here I am, hungry enough to 
eat the fatted calf, hoofs and all." 

"Hungry! of course you are!" and upon that 
Mrs. Hickey almost ran back and forth, until she 
had barricaded him with all sorts of dainties. 

" But why didn't you write when you was coming, 
dear child ? I'm so surprised I don't know what to 
do first ; " and Mrs. Hickey's strong nerves certainly 
suffered strange vibrations as she hovered over him. 

John Henry laughed feebly. "Why didn't I 
write? I'll tell you how 'twas, mother. We didn't 
have any gilt-edged paper, and the rebs kept our 
rosewood writing-desks, and Uncle Sam forgot to 
send postage stamps. So they just packed us 
aboard the cars and sent us off to carry the news 
ourselves. But, mother, the best thing you can do 
for me is to put me in the bed where George and I 
used to sleep, under that sun-flower bed-quilt. O, 
how many times I've dreamed about it ! And, fa- 
ther, if you'll help me up-stairs you may, for, hon- 
estly, there's nothing about me that feels quite right, 
except my tongue." 

It was not long before the poor fellow was bathed 
and put between clean sheets, which made him feel 
" like an old aristocrat." 



FROM THE SHADOW OF DEATH. 259 

" O, mother ! " he groaned, fairly burdened with 
luxury, " if I only knew that all the boys were as 
well off ! Your heart would have ached if you had 
seen them come out of Andersonville. Some of 
'em couldn't get aboard the cars, they were so weak, 
and so died just as they thought there was a chance 
to start for home. And I tell you, we had hard 
work to get poor Joe Armstrong through ; we'd 
keep saying, 'Just a few days more and you'll see 
Vic and the baby ; ' and that, with the food they 
gave us on the way, was all that kept him alive." 

" Now, John Henry," interposed his father, in the 
tone he had used when his children were young, 
"you stop talking to-night, and when you get 
rested you shall tell the whole story. We want to 
hear it bad enough, but not to-night. Don't forget 
to thank the Lord for bringin' you safe home." 

"No, sir; but, mother, just one thing more: 
will you get up a boiled dinner to-morrow, with 
plenty of cabbage and beets, and a pudding? " 

" Yes, yes, any thing you want," they responded, 
and then left him, but not alone, for Mrs. Hickey 
sat by the kitchen fire through the night, stealing 
up to his room every half hour, fearful lest starva- 
tion and exposure would yet rob her of her boy. 
And here, too, intense joy was mingled with grief; 
for the mother could not forget, as she watched 
through the dark, silent hours, that she had sent 
two stalwart sons away in their new blue " regiment- 
als " and only one had returned ! 

It was a strong faith which could still sing, " Free- 
dom is worth all this and more." 

We may as well state just here that that " boiled 



200 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

dish" proved an almost fatal enjoyment to our poor 
soldier-boy. After the manner of New England 
housekeepers, Mrs. Hickey cooked a large quantity 
of corned beef, pork, and all kinds of vegetables, 
setting away the portion which remained after din- 
ner for another meal. But John Henry knew where 
the pantry was; and with his ravenous hunger un- 
satisfied he waited only until the rest of the family 
chanced to be employed elsewhere to descend upon 
that platter and capture a good part of its contents. 
But it was impossible to make up a two years' lack 
of "boiled dishes " in one day, and our " forager" 
paid the penalty of his rashness by terrible suffer- 
ing. Doctor Adams and Miss Hancock united 
their human skill, and poor Mrs. Hickey watched 
incessantly until the danger was averted ; but John 
Henry was reduced to " spoon victuals" for several 
weeks in consequence, much to his disgust. 

Great interest was felt in the experiences of these 
liberated captives, and a pathetic blending of curi- 
osity and loving sympathy brought visitors from far 
and near to gaze upon them. 

John Henry told his father that he was neglect- 
ing a rare opportunity to amass a fortune in not 
charging an admission fee ! As the evenings grew 
long, and gathered harvests brought leisure to the 
farmers, he had a chance to tell his story again and 
again — a story which could have been duplicated 
by thousands. But with the hope and promise of 
a better South and a better North, we need not 
recall it, only as a warning against national sins 
which bring bitter punishments and demand price- 
less ransoms. 



THE RAID AND A RAIDER. 261 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

THE RAID AND A RAIDER. 

" W 7 ELL, father, I guess you wont laugh about 
V V the raiders any more, for they've cleaned 
out the St. Albans banks in fine style," said Benjie 
Steele one fine October evening on his return from 
the village. 

"You don't say so ! " exclaimed Mr. Steele. 

" Yes, sir; there's more 'n two columns here from 
a Burlington paper." 

" I've told you all along that the rebels would 
come 'round by way of Canada ! Now I guess 
you'll be ready to put locks on the outside doors ; " 
and Mrs. Steele turned from the cupboard, where 
she had just deposited the last " supper dish," with 
a look of mild reproach. 

But Mr. Steele only laughed. " O, now, mother," 
said he, " the raiders wont trouble us. They may 
try the bank — I don't say they wont — but they'll 
let us alone." 

" Unless they want horses ; I heard they stole 
some up on the border," said Abram. 

" Read what you have there, Benjamin, and to- 
morrow I'll see to the doors and board up the hen- 
coops." 

Mr. Steele, with his good-natured trust in hu- 
manity, was evidently unwilling to believe that the 



262 THE G1LEAD- GUARDS. 

gaunt hand of war could reach the Green Mount- 
ains, and listened with a sort of incredulous sur- 
prise as Benjie read : " The raiders had been in the 
village for several days. They had been at the 
different hotels, and citizens had noticed the well- 
dressed, well-armed strangers with some curiosity. 
On Wednesday, at half past three o'clock, they sta- 
tioned a patrol on the streets, and then in parties 
of five or six descended upon the three banks in the 
village. At one they held their pistols to the heads 
of the teller and one of the directors, making them 
swear an oath of allegiance to the Southern Con- 
federacy, and taking $73,500. At another the band 
introduced themselves as Confederate soldiers, and 
cleaned the bank of $85,000, shutting the cashier 
and another man into the vault when they left the 
bank. The third bank lost $52,000." Then fol- 
lowed an account of persons who had been shot, 
and of the pursuit ; of the arrival of re-enforcements, 
the departure of the raiders, etc. An editorial note 
stated that the border counties were getting well 
under arms and forming military companies for pro- 
tection against further raids. Returned soldiers and 
citizens were alike enlisting for this service. 

A few days later official news was received warn- 
ing the people to expect these incursions of " rebels 
and skedaddlers from Canada," and to allow no 
stranger at farm-house or on the highway. Gilead, 
having a bank, was morally sure of a visit, and pre- 
pared to receive it. Every road, the river and its 
bridges, were put under guard, and woe to the man 
who couldn't give an account of himself ! 

To a few ardent young souls like Benjie the whole 



THE RAID AND A RAIDER. 263 

affair was an episode apparently arranged for their 
express benefit, a grand opportunity to prove their 
bravery. 

The post of duty assigned to our young friend 
was not, however, exactly what he would have 
chosen, being what was called " the old road " lead- 
ing over the hill pasture of their own farm. It had 
long since been abandoned for the more easily trav- 
eled valley road, but there were still grass-grown 
ruts discernible between encroaching trees and un- 
derbrush, holding a possibility for horseback riders 
or wary footmen. 

It was a dark night, with a lonesome wind telling 
ghost-stories in the tree-tops, when he was first called 
into service ; but Benjie shouldered his rifle like a 
veteran and marched up the hill. One of the neigh- 
bors was stationed within hallooing distance, but 
Benjie thought, incidentally, it would have been a 
good plan if they could have been nearer each other. 
He carried a lantern and matches for an emergency, 
for which he felt quite ready after walking stealthily 
back and forth two or three hours, listening intently 
for raiders. The nervous strain was greater than he 
had expected, and the power of imagination invested 
the familiar landscape with grotesque creations, ap- 
parently as real as every-day companions. A book 
of Grecian history had fallen into Benjie's hands a 
short time before, and, with a fine scorn for the 
visionary and fantastic, he had called the old Greeks 
" a set of simpletons ! " But to-night, watching the 
wind-swayed branches, they became warning, be- 
seeching hands, with a personality behind them ; 
and an oddly broken and parti-colored stump be- 



264 THE CI LEAD' GUARDS. 

came in the starlight a man with a contemplative 
air, just ready to impart his wisdom to some kin- 
dred mind ; and our young philosopher decided 
that under some circumstances it would not be dif- 
ficult to people a world with beings neither human 
nor divine ! 

And the noises ! Who could explain them? A 
dead limb fell with a thud a few rods away; then, 
snap, snap ! twigs were breaking in a thicket like 
the click of many rifles. Then the wind swept over 
the hill, and Benjie was sure it held the echo of 
horses' hoofs, and somehow the comical side of 
"watching for raiders" suffered a total eclipse just 
then ! 

But at length a sound different from any of these 
smote his ear and set his heart to thumping wildly. 
It was a something quite as large as a man — as large 
as several men, he thought — advancing deliberately 
and stealthily. Waiting until he heard the bushes 
near by parting and cracking on either side, he 
shouted, " Halt ! " There was an instant of intense 
silence. 

" Give your name and the countersign, or I fire ! " 

There was no response to this, but instead what 
sounded to Benjie like a snort of derision, and he 
fired ! 

He also " hallooed," and retreated rapidly toward 
the open field; but as the "something" crashed 
away through the bushes and down the hill there 
was a significant " Mo-o-o ! " which sufficiently re- 
vealed the personality of that intruder ! 

When neighbor Hiller appeared Benjie ex- 
plained the report by saying that he " guessed he 



THE RAID AND A RAIDER. 265 

got nervous, but he really thought the rebels were 
coming through the woods." 

" Don't wonder ! " exclaimed the honest farmer, 
sympathetically, " the woods 're full of the most 
outlandish noises I ever heard. The rabbits and 
squirrels seem to be havin' a picnic out my way, 
and if I didn't know better I should say there was 
somethin' 's big as a bear among the hemlocks." 

Benjie was greatly relieved to find so congenial a 
spirit, and shared his lunch with him, much to their 
mutual benefit. The rest of the night passed with- 
out adventure, for the spell of fear was broken ; but 
Benjie had learned his lesson. It was some time, 
however, before he told the story of his fright and 
old Brindle's narrow escape. 

Abram was stationed at the bridge between farm 
and village that night. He had known that his 
"beat" would be less lonely than Benjie's, and sug- 
gested changing with him ; but Mr. Steele had 
said, " No, no ! let Benjamin try his pluck in the 
pastur'. He's too hot-headed to stan' on the 
bridge." 

During the evening there was the usual travel to 
and from the village, and the neighbors — kind 
souls ! — did not forget the past as they recognized 
Abram in his new character. 

" Don't get lonesome to-night. John Henry says 
picket duty is rather scary sometimes," said Mr. 
Hickey. 

"Always thought you'd be a soldier ever sence 
you talked up so smart about it," called Mr. Slo- 
cum ; "but them that fight an' runs away lives to 
fight another day; don't you know they do? " 



266 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

And another shouted back above the rattling of 
his wagon, " The watch up our way come pretty 
nigh shootin' my woman las' night. She was out 
huntin' up her geese after dark, 'n' when she come 
back drivin' of 'em, the feller got scairt 'n' fired. 
Didn't know so much 's a goose, he didn't. So 
now don't you fire at no woman ! Haw, haw ! " 
and turning about on his seat he slapped the reins 
and drove off rapidly, still laughing. 

The last straggler was a returned soldier — poor 
fellow ! — who had learned to love whisky all too 
well while in the army. He came across the bridge 
— not quite steadily — in his light blue cape-over- 
coat, which could always be recognized so far away 
in those days, and drawled, " Give my love to the 
Johnnies, Abram, and tell 'em I'd 'a' been on hand 
to meet 'em if I hadn't got to have the sha-shakes 
to-night. Give us yer hand, and mind you don't 
show the white — white feather, Abram, and let 'em 
slip through your fingers." And away he went 
trolling a camp song ; brave to meet rebels, but a 
coward, alas ! before his worst enemy. 

And so the last one crossed the bridge, and all 
along the river a heavy white fog hung like a cold 
pall, gradually reaching out over the valley and cov- 
ering the lonely sentinels. 

Then Abram, as he paced back and forth, ex- 
claimed bitterly to himself, " And this ' mimicry of 
war 'is all I can expect ! Others can die and wear 
martyrs' crowns, but I must live and wear a fool's 
cap!" 

His was, as has before been stated, a long-en- 
during nature, strong to bear disappointment, and 



THE RAID AND A RAIDER. 267 

able to keep it out of sight ; but there were times 
when the old rebellious nature asserted itself. And 
then he loathed the close economy and small de- 
ceptions he was practicing. Even the fact that his 
obligation to Hiel was nearly canceled gave small 
comfort at such times. What did it all amount to? 
His father and mother mourned over Austin as one 
dead. He was a hero and almost a saint. His 
photograph, the few letters that had reached them, 
with articles of clothing and his books, had been 
laid away with plenty of rose-leaves in a trunk by 
themselves as sacred relics. And when, stung by 
some unjust word, Abram was tempted to tear 
away this halo that surrounded the "soldier-boy" 
his heart invariably relented. " I can't do it. 
Father and mother think he's all right, and I'll 
never undeceive them," he would say, and set his 
face steadfastly toward some duty, thus working 
his way past temptation. But this temptation was 
gradually losing its power, for there was an increas- 
ing tenderness in his own heart toward his brother 
as time seemed to ratify the theory of his death. 
The face that had lain close to his own so many, 
many nights through childhood and boyhood would 
sometimes suddenly appear, and, looking again 
into the willful, mischievous eyes — but always 
honest eyes — he would whisper, " It's all a mistake, 
Tony ; a terrible mistake ! " Tony was the name 
he had given his brother when they were little fel- 
lows, and it had been years since he had used 
it. But now that the silence of mystery and 
probable death had fallen between them it often 
recurred to him, and with it returned the half- 



268 I'll E G1LEAD GUARDS. 

protecting, half-patronizing feeling which older 
brothers affect. 

Truly, death is a wonderful peacemaker, and 
there is divine wisdom in the separation which 
makes it possible for good people, who don't al- 
ways agree, to lose the bitterness of old animosi- 
ties before they meet in the beyond. If an entire 
circle of relatives or friends was removed at the 
same time, it would need all the sweetness of 
heaven to tone down the discordant elements and 
unravel the misunderstandings ; but, as it is, death 
touches them one by one ; and when old antag- 
onists finally come together they will probably 
have to stop and inquire " the cause of that little 
disturbance down in earth." All of which leads 
the logical mind to ask, " If these things weigh so 
little in the world of true weights and measures, 
why do we allow them to torment and wound us so 
here ? " 

But Abram, pacing back and forth on the bridge, 
was not troubled by a single thought of bitterness 
or revenge toward his brother. It was a new 
temptation which used the old form of expression 
against the old annoyances. The new temptation 
was Ruby. 

She had returned, after graduating " with honor," 
and, to his dismay, he found she was just as dear 
as ever. She had come with all her added gifts and 
graces, but was as far from his worshipful eyes, ap- 
parently, as the topmost peak of the Green Mount- 
ains. She had joined the choir again, as though 
there had been no interim ; but in the gallery, as 
every-where else, she met him with a studied cour- 



THE RAID AND A RAIDER. 269 

tesy which was almost as edifying as it was humili- 
ating. And then, just as he had decided to make 
her hear his story and do him justice, came a 
dapper little lieutenant who walked with a cane ! 
He sang with Ruby, he rode horseback with her, 
and limped into church beside her; and Gilead 
whispered and nodded, as humdrum country places 
will, and reported that " it was settled ! " All this 
was gall and wormwood to Abram. Every smile 
she bestowed upon the stranger, the gentle defer- 
ence with which she moderated her step to his, the 
expression she threw into " Blest be the tie that 
binds," he noticed and interpreted in accordance 
with his own fears. And so, as he considered the 
matter that night — and the raiders did not interfere 
with his train of thought — he decided to leave 
Gilead as soon as he could make his arrangements 
to do so. Having made this conclusion, he was 
quite willing to see the fog assume a lighter hue — 
the first token of a new day — as he repeated to 
himself the old couplet, of which many repetitions 
had made him rather fond : 

" When all the blandishments of life are gone 
The coward sneaks to death, the brave lives on." 

Objects nearby were now perceptible, and he saw 
that he could soon leave his post, when he heard 
the sound of footsteps coming from the village, ac- 
companied by a whistled tune. It was " The Vacant 
Chair," and Abram's first thought was that no rebel 
would whistle that tune. Nevertheless, he leveled 
his rifle and cried, " Halt ! " as the figure of a man 
appeared. 



270 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

" Whatever !" said a wondering voice ; and then, 
" O, yes! you're guarding the old bridge! Well, 
I'm the 'prodigal son' returning to my father's 
house, and the countersign is, ' E plurrbus unum.' " 
Something in the voice caused Abram to lower his 
rifle. 

"What's your name? " he inquired. 

For answer a tall soldier advanced with the cry, 
" Abram ! I believe it's you ! " and the next mo- 
ment, with an answering cry of "Austin!" the 
two brothers met each other. 

" Only your left hand to shake with ! is that so?" 
asked Abram, huskily. 

"Yes, or I would have sent you word ; for I got 
your letter three months ago, Abram, and, old fel- 
low, how could you stand it ? " 



RUBY'S HERO. 271 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

RUBY'S HERO. 

ABRAM halted in the road and faced his brother. 
"Then you never took that money? It was 
a lie, was it ?" he asked. 

" Of course 'twas a lie ! Did you think one of 
father's boys would steal? I knew nothing about 
it till I got your letter," replied Austin, his face 
quivering with excitement. 

Abram drew a long breath, and straightened him- 
self, as though a burden had been lifted. 

"All right! now take my arm and tell me about 
it as we walk home." 

"It's a long story, Abram, but I'll tell you what 
I can. You see I've been on the go ever since I 
enlisted. And I got careless about writing, and 
about other things. Some of my letters were prob- 
ably lost — yours were, I know — and sometimes 
there were weeks when we couldn't hear from 
home. Well, you can't understand it, but it's the 
easiest thing in the world to learn to play cards and 
drink and smoke and cut up generally when the 
other fellows are doing it. And so I didn't like to 
think much about father and mother, and kept put- 
ting off writing, even when I might have done it. 
But when we got down in the Shenandoah Valley 
with Sheridan we got a big mail one day, and 



272 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

among other things was your letter. When I read 
it I thought I couldn't wait to see you. But before 
I could write, even, we met the rebs about six miles 
from Winchester." 

" And was that where you lost your arm ? " asked 
Abram. 

" Yes ; a shell struck a tree close by, glanced, and 
took it off before you could say ' Jack Robinson ! ' 
I was badly hurt in other ways, and of course it 
was some time before they got me on an ambulance. 
They started for Harper's Ferry, but I couldn't stand 
it, so what should they do but leave me at a regu- 
lar secesh house — a big stone mansion beside the 
road ! Well, they took me into the attic, and laid 
me on some boards, and set a boy to watching me. 
I'd have died there, sure, but one day a lady, a 
friend of that family, happened to find out about 
me, and she sent a straw bed and four negroes to lift 
me on to it. Then she drove four miles for a doctor 
— didn't dare send any body — and when I got a lit- 
tle better she had me moved to her home, and took 
care of me till I got well." 

" There's one Christian woman down South, I 
know," said Abram, warmly. 

" O, there's lots of them, I dare say," continued 
Austin, " only the war has rather upset the ' golden 
rule ' part of their religion. But I'll never forget 
that woman; no, sir! May be I was there a month, 
and then I started for Washington. And now the 
strangest part of the whole story happened. You 
see I went to a hospital one day to see some of the 
boys I knew, and while I was wandering through 
one of the wards with the surgeon I heard some- 



RUBY'S HERO. 273 

body speak my name ; and there, out in the corner, 
was a regular scarecrow of a fellow waving his hand 
for me to come. I went, and there was Charlie 
Williams, one of the boys that used to be in Web- 
ber's with me ! He got hold of me with his bony 
hands, and says he, ' We stole that money, Dick 
and I, and when Webber caught us we swore it on 
to you because you'd got away, and we thought he 
couldn't get you.' Then he went on to tell how 
Dick was killed in battle, and how he'd got to die, 
and hoped I'd forgive him, and all that. Of course I 
had to. I wouldn't have known what he meant if I 
had not received your letter. But I wanted some 
proof, so I wrote out what he had said, and he had 
just strength enough to sign it, and the nurse signed 
it too." 

" Thank the Lord ! " ejaculated Abram. 

" Perhaps we might as well," said Austin, soberly, 
" though I hadn't looked at it in that light. But of 
course I couldn't come home then, until I'd seen L. 
Webber & Co. ; so I went to Boston and just faced 
the old gentleman, and he forked over that thou- 
sand dollars with interest for two years at ten per 
cent. Yes, sir ! And when I told him I though the'd 
been driving a pretty sharp bargain, taking a thou- 
sand dollars, when the boys stole only a few hun- 
dred, he owned right up that he might have, since 
he never knew just how much they took! But he 
begged pardon and smoothed it over as well as he 
could, and of course there was nothing more to be 
done. So then I went to Uncle Austin's, and they 
made quite an ado over me. I'd sent him my pay 
at different times, and he has it invested for me, so 
18 



274 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

I'm not quite as badly off as that other prodigal 
son, though I've done enough to make my elder 
brother despise me, I suppose." 

" No," said Abram, with a smile ; " I think you've 
done what you could to set matters right ; but — " 

" I think I know what you mean. There are 
other things," interrupted Austin. 

" Yes, there are other things," said Abram, " but 
we wont speak of them, for it is daybreak now, and 
we're almost home. Father's got the kitchen fire 
started, and I dare say he's just ready to crawl out 
to the barn to see if the horses and cattle have rested 
well. Yes, there he comes ! Now, Austin, be a 
little cautious; it's a big surprise, you know." 

But Austin had never been famous for caution, 
and, swinging his cap above his head, he sprang 
toward the door with a " Good-morning, father !" 
and just then the first sunshine struck across the 
valley and rested upon the old farm-house. 

The story of Austin Steele's return spread like 
wild-fire, and with it went the story of Abram's sac- 
rifice. Gilead opened its eyes and drew in its 
under-lip as it remembered its " cold shoulders," 
hard speeches, and unjust accusations ; but if you 
imagine that it hastened to beg his pardon you do 
•not yet understand human nature. Instead it as- 
sumed a jovial expression and said: "Glad you've 
come out top o' the heap, Abram ; we always thought 
you would ! " 

This was Gilead in the abstract ; but there were a 
goodly number who felt more than a common inter- 
est, and who could appreciate something of the 
struggle he had passed through. These gave him so 



RUBY'S HERO. 275 

much of admiration and sympathy as to be almost 
embarrassing. Hiel Saunders was among the first 
to rejoice, as Abram sought him immediately, eager 
to cancel the debt still remaining and to explain 
every thing to the honest fellow who had served 
him so faithfully. 

" Wal, now, " said he, leaning against the fence, 
his face glowing with satisfaction, " I couldn't 've 
planned it neater, not if I'd tried. To have Austin 
come back V tell the story himself, 'n' bring the 
money! Why, Abram, he'd ought to serve you 
night and day. I guess folks wont say ' coward ' no 
more behind your back. Brutus 'n' Caesar 'n' Gen- 
eral Grant warn't no braver;" and Hiel laughed 
and grimaced, and finally laid his " greenbacks " on 
a fence-post while he shook Abram 's hand. As 
soon as the latter was out of sight again Hiel hung 
up his hoe and started for the house, eager to tell 
the good news. Ruby had been helping Martha 
with the crab-apple jelly that forenoon, and to find 
her in the kitchen was a great satisfaction to our 
friend. He was in a state of exaltation, almost 
equal to singing psalms or prophesying. 

" A hero's come to light, born an' brought up 
amongst the Green Mountains. Brutus V Caesar 
'n' General Grant aint no braver. And them that's 
been waggin' the head wont do so no longer, fer 
old soldiers themselves '11 turn out fer him. Hoo- 
ray ! " and Hiel caught off his old straw hat and 
threw it high in the air. 

"For pity's sake stand out o' my way," said 
Martha, somewhat sharply. " I b'lieve you've lost 
your mind." 



276 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

"Who is it that is such a hero, Hid?" asked 
Ruby, who was now rubbing apple-stains from her 
fingers. 

"It's Abram ;" and Hiel crossed his elbows on 
the window-sill and looked at her innocently. " You 
see Austin's got home ; stayed to the tavern last 
night V walked over early this mornin', 'n' now the 
whole story's come out. A man down to Boston 
thought as how he'd stole some money; so after he 
goes to war the man writes to Abram a real threaten- 
in' letter 'n' calls fer a thousan ' dollars. Then Abram, 
he gives up goin' to war, gives up — wal, sev'ral other 
things too numerous to mention " — with a sidelong 
glance at Ruby — " keeps the story 'n' disgrace all 
to himself, and stays to home 'n' bears the sneers o' 
folks that aint fit to clean his boots, 'n' just turns to 
'n' raises that money, dollar by dollar. See ? Why 
he's bigger 'n' braver 'n any soldier we sent out 
from Gilead. They don't make uniforms big enough 
for such a man, in my opinion ; " and Hiel smote 
the window-sill with an emphatic fist. 

" Don't you dare to joggle my jelly-tumblers ! " 
cried Martha, and then, sinking into a chair, she 
returned to the subject-. " Did you ever ! And 
I'm glad of it. You'll bear me witness, Hiel, that 
I never yielded that he stayed at home because he 
was afraid o' gunpowder." 

Ruby did not speak. A sudden sensation of 
faintncss swept over her ; the warm kitchen, with 
its odor of jelly, became unbearable, and without 
a word of explanation she disappeared. 

" There, Hiel, now you've hit Ruby, and I s'pose 
you're happy," said Martha. 



RUBY'S HERO. 277 

" No, I aint ; " and Hiel shook his head soberly. 
" I didn't know she'd feel it. Seems to me women 
're queer about such things. She don't want two 
beaus, I sh'd hope. Where's that little lieutenant? 
But I see my room's better 'n my company." 

Hiel had cause for this suspicion, as Martha had 
begun to hum " The Last Rose of Summer." 

For the first time in her life Ruby felt that she 
had made a fatal mistake ; and as she locked her 
door and sank upon her knees by the window she 
looked quite wretched enough to suit the most ex- 
acting lover ; for the shadows had suddenly been 
dispelled, and to Ruby's own surprise she found 
that Abram was still enshrined in her heart of 
hearts. She also saw clearly, what she would not 
admit before, that she had never fully deceived her- 
self with the theory that she neither respected nor 
loved him. Respect ! She felt that this was a cold 
word to express the sentiment which responded to 
the sudden revelation of his excellence. Once con- 
vince a woman that a man is morally heroic, that 
he has suffered in silence from some high and wor- 
thy motive, and she is almost ready to worship him. 
Being created with this tendency, it will take gen- 
erations to uproot it. Hence the strength of this 
utilitarian age would better be expended in evolving 
the ideal man who is " morally heroic " than in 
eradicating this tendency. Ruby, being a sensitive, 
high-minded girl, was fully capable of appreciating 
nobility in others and giving to it her homage ; 
but, mingled with her love and admiration, was just 
now the thought of her injustice toward Abram. 

" What a fool I've been ! " she sobbed. " I wouldn't 



278 . THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

even let him explain. O, he'll never wish to see me 
again, I'm sure." 

But with every ejaculation and tear-fall Ruby grew 
more convinced that the love she had spurned was 
of the kind which " many waters cannot quench." 
That Abram had never changed she fully believed, 
but there was the barrier between them which she 
herself had raised, but which she dare not attempt 
to destroy ! 

At tea the subject she dreaded was the theme of 
conversation. Squire Fletcher had met Austin, and 
was delighted with the tall, soldierly fellow. 

" He's got to be a fine young man," said he, ap- 
provingly. " The fact is, Gilead is turning out some 
young folks who wont need to take off their hats to 
any body. There's Abram, now ; it aint one in a 
thousand who could have borne what he has these 
two years past. I'm glad that thing's cleared up 
to his credit, for he's bound to be a leading man 
among us. They tell me he's been writing a prize 
essay on farming that's making quite a stir. Per- 
haps he was kept from using the sword that he 
might use his pen. By the way, I guess you owe 
him an apology, don't you, sis?" 

Ruby turned her agitated face toward her father 
and meekly responded, 

" Yes, sir ; I do," while Mrs. Fletcher hastened 
to say : 

" You wouldn't have Ruby do any thing unlady- 
like, I'm sure, would you, father ? I dare say he 
understands it was all a mistake." 

" Humph ! I presume he does; but that may not 
make it anv easier to bear. Fact is, I never could 



RUBY'S HERO. 279 

see any thing ' unladylike ' in saying you're sorry 
if you've done wrong." 

Ruby thanked her father with a smile for this 
comforting bit of logic. She was sure now that, 
however crossing it might be, she must take the first 
step toward a reconciliation. 

It would be an easy matter to create a labyrinth 
at this point through whose intricate and nearly 
interminable ways our young friends should 
wander in their search for a " sequel ; " but some- 
times Love walks along the line which is geo- 
metrically described as marking the " shortest dis- 
tance between two points." 

The weather, even, was propitious to a speedy 
adjustment of misunderstandings, for October held 
no more perfect day than was the Sabbath just after 
Austin's return. Ruby's dark-blue silk fitted the 
day admirably, as did the dainty bonnet which 
matched it. She dressed herself with unusual care 
that morning, and who shall inquire as to her 
motives ? 

It was a kind of " red-letter day " in Gilead, for 
more of the " Guards " were at home than had been 
before. Lieutenant Plumley, David Douglas, and 
others were " on furlough," after a stay in a Wash- 
ington hospital ; and John Henry Hickey was out 
for the first time, his thin, sallow face beaming with 
repressed satisfaction. There, too, was Mrs. Smith, 
in her deep mourning, with Homer, pale and emaci- 
ated still, on the seat beside her, while Byron, with 
a look of responsibility and care-taking which made 
him appear like a little old man, sat on the front 
seat and guided the spiritless old horse. 



280 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

Will any one who remembers those days ever 
forget how the boys looked in their uniforms — no 
longer new and fresh — as they returned to their 
country homes ? Can you not see the jaunty air 
with which they doffed their " soldier-caps " as they 
entered the plain, cool vestibule of the old church ? 
They were eager to see familiar faces, and the 
subdued greetings exchanged just outside the inner 
door were heartfelt. As they walked up the un- 
carpeted aisles they knew very well that every de- 
corous eye was upon them, that every loyal heart 
was paying homage. 

Austin's "empty sleeve" gave him a claim to 
universal attention, while the events connected with 
his return furnished material for much whispered 
conversation during the " nooning," when old ladies 
and children ate cookies and crackers and young 
men stood upon the steps quietly exchanging views, 
in utter subjugation to " Sunday clothes " and the 
hallowing influence of the day. 

The forenoon sermon, the Sunday-school session, 
and the afternoon sermon were over at last, and 
the people of both churches were dispersing, when 
Ruby returned to the gallery on some pretext, 
where Abram still lingered. He had been very dig- 
nified that day ; for, being fully aware of his vindica- 
tion in the eyes of the public, he unwittingly repaid 
some of Ruby's scorn by an unusually reserved and 
preoccupied manner. But, nevertheless, she re- 
turned and stood by the melodeon as she had stood 
on that other Sunday more than two years before. 
Did she remember? Abram wondered. 

" Mr. Steele — Abrarn — I am very sorry I have 



RUBY'S HERO. 281 

misjudged you so," she said, her face turned away 
from him. 

" Miss Fletcher — Ruby — so am I ! " he replied, a 
little stiffly, and after a painful pause. 

And then, with an embarrassed laugh, a flushing 
face, and tear-filled eyes, Ruby turned toward him. 

" You know I was terribly mistaken ! " she fal- 
tered. 

The transparent frost-work in Abram's eyes im- 
mediately disappeared. He stepped over the back 
of the seat which separated them and grasped her 
hand, saying, almost fiercely, 

" Ruby, how much do you mean by that ? " 

" I mean that I am very sorry that I wronged 
you, and for all that has happened." 

This was not what Ruby had planned to say, but 
as she covered her eyes with her free hand, trying 
in vain to control herself, Abram seemed perfectly 
satisfied. Not quite, however; he had one more 
question to ask : 

" Ruby, are you engaged to that — lieutenant?" 

She shook her head promptly. 

And then, why, then the reconciliation took 
place, particulars of which the faithful historian has 
never received. Suffice it to say that as they left 
the old church a little later side by side, as they 
have walked ever since, she said : 

" But remember, Abram, I haven't taken back 
what I once said to you ; for even if you didn't 
go to war I have got my hero ! " 

" And remember, Ruby, that though I didn't go 
to war I have captured my rebel," returned Abram, 
with a contented smile. 



282 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

THANKSGIVING AGAIN. 

THE raiders never appeared in Gilead. Whether 
sufficient funds had been elsewhere secured 
to answer the purposes of the Confederacy, or 
whether the military bearing of frontier towns 
struck terror to their hearts, we cannot tell; but at 
any rate the unscrupulous desperadoes retreated. 

Then women dared once more to linger outside 
the garden gate at twilight, and in time forgot to 
set their home-made " burglar-alarms," deftly con- 
trived of tinware and twine, and fastened by a curi- 
ous mechanism to doors and windows. But al- 
though this " reign of terror " was over the public 
mind was far from a state of rest. As before 
stated, the presidential election was approaching, 
and while corn and pumpkins were ripening in quiet 
fields the country was in a ferment. The best and 
worst elements in every community were aroused. 
Public meetings, discussions, disputes, bonfires, and 
newspaperial bombs absorbed attention. Soldiers, 
at home and in the field, were interested and busy; 
for the Union army was an army of ideas, whose 
opinions as well as bullets were devoted to the 
service of their country. But at length the struggle 
and the suspense were over, and the nation filled its 
lungs to hurrah for Lincoln. By an overwhelming 



THANKSGIVING AGAIN. 2S3 

majority, which surprised even his most sanguine 
friends, he was elected for a second term. There 
were ratification meetings, jubilees, head-lines, capi- 
tals — every thing that could emphasize the shout, 
" Old Abe is elected ! " which rang joyfully from 
the Atlantic to the Pacific. Loyalty to and confi- 
dence in government revived, and the army, with 
new life and courage, saw victory ahead. Is it any 
wonder that, with bountiful harvests to crown the 
year, New England could welcome its Thanksgiving 
day? Not that they forgot the awful shadow of 
war. There were too many empty chairs and too 
many distant graves to allow it. But they had 
learned the meaning of " our country " as never 
before. 

A musician sits down to a small instrument and 
finds it too .limited for the complicated music he 
would play. The highest and the lowest tones find 
no keys to speak through. Just so we are aware 
that our country town could not express the in- 
tensity of city life nor the bitter depths of battle- 
fields and hospitals ; but according to its capacity it 
responded truly to the varied emotions of the great 
conflict. Pain and patriotism were the same every- 
where. So, just at this period, we need not refer 
to statesmen and army officers to find an illustra- 
tion of the prevailing sentiment — although Washing- 
ton was overflowing with it — but turn to Joe Arm- 
strong's little home in the mountain district. 

Joe was sitting up. The parlor had been made as 
bright as possible, which was very bright indeed, in 
honor of the event. Vic had prepared and arranged 
quantities of brilliant autumn-leaves and scarlet 



284 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

" runners " when they were at their best, which 
glowed upon the light-papered walls and hung in 
festoons over the windows. In the well-polished 
box-stove a jovial fire snapped and sparkled. 
There was a warmth and snugness in the atmos- 
phere which soothed poor Joe like a loving hand 
as he sat with pillows at his back and a blanket 
over his shoulders, where he could watch his little 
wife as she bustled about in the kitchen, "getting 
ready for Thanksgiving," which anniversary came on 
the morrow. 

"Vic !" called Joe. 

In an instant she was at his side. 

"You say they're very sure that old Abs'e 
elected ? " 

" Yes, indeed ; the papers say that the returns 
're all in, and it's all right." 

" O, I'd like to go back now and help finish up the 
war ! " he sighed. 

" You look like it, Joe, don't you ? I think you'd 
better wait till you get your bones fairly covered. 
Why, you couldn't whip the baby, and what would 
you do with a rebel ? " laughed Vic. 

" I know, but I'm going to begin to eat like 
other folks to-morrow. I've lived on spoon victuals 
long enough," said Joe. 

Vic patted his head tenderly. " So you shall. 
I'm going to have two of my own white-breasted 
chicks killed to-night, for father and the boys are 
coming to dinner, and you shall have the broth and 
a little meat and a bit of my nice bread and a tiny, 
tiny piece of pie ! " 

Joe looked admiringly at the trim figure beside 



THANKSGIVING AGAIN. 285 

him. " Vic, I've been wanting to ask about it. 
Every thing is so nice and bright, and the house 
fixed up, and good things to eat. Do you really 
make the bread and stuff that smells so good when 
you're baking? " 

Vic nodded, while her face dimpled with hap- 
piness. 

" What a wonderful woman you are ! " exclaimed 
Joe. 

She placed her hand over his mouth. " Don't 
you say so, fcr I'm not wonderful at all. I'm just 
an ignoramus about most things, but I'm a little 
better than I used to be, Joe." 

Holding her hand in his own, he said : " I've 
been scared to ask, for fear 't wouldn't be true ; but 
now tell me all about it." 

" 'Tvvas trying to catch up to you, Joe, and it's 
been awful hard," she replied ; and then, half laugh- 
ing, half crying, she told the story of her struggle 
with the old habits, her trials and her triumphs. 
He listened with an appreciation which more than 
repaid for the long waiting. 

" My old Vic was too good for me," said Joe, 
humbly, "but the new one's ahead! You'd make 
a good soldier, Vic. Dear me ! what have I done 
to deserve such blessin's? I don't believe there's a 
man in the United States that's got more to be 
thankful for than I have. I'm alive, that's one! 
Abraham Lincoln's elected, that's two ! I've got 
the best wife in the world, that's three ! And the 
smartest baby" — as little Nellie came trotting in — - 
"that's four! and lots of other things too numer- 
ous to mention." 



286 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

Vic kissed him gently on the forehead and hurried 
into the kitchen, where savory odors called for at- 
tention, and Joe leaned back and tried to sing, 
" Praise God, from whom all blessings flow ! " 

Joe's hands were still lean and yellow, his face 
wore shadows and lines that had no right to be 
there, his clothes hung upon him in absurd folds, 
and behind him was the memory of Andersonville ; 
but he was loyal to the heart's core, and, having 
given his strength to his country, he didn't know 
any better than to sing the Doxology ! And in 
spite of all his " blessin's " he was quite ready to 
go and " help finish up," had it been possible. 

Preparations for a family reunion at Mr. Steele's 
had culminated that afternoon in the arrival of 
Uncle Austin and Aunt Elizabeth from Boston. 
Esther and Mary were again at home also, after a 
delightful term at Hope Seminary, grateful for their 
brother's return, proud of his empty sleeve, but 
doubly grateful and proud over Abram's vindication. 

" How blind we were not to see that he must be 
all right from the beginning!" said Esther. 

" Ah, but he might have told us !" said Maiy. 

" He done right," interrupted their father, " and 
I shall always bless him for savin' us from the dis- 
grace we'd have had to feel for two long years. My 
son " — and he turned toward the desk — " I found a 
Bible text for you this mornin': ' Fear not, Abram, I 
am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.' If 
I had the Thanksgivin' sermon to preach to-morrow 
I should enlarge on it." There was a hearty laugh' 
over that idea, but the text was not forgotten. 

In the pantry, during the dish-washing session, 



THANKSGIVING AGAIN. 287 

Esther and Mary exchanged opinions, with closed 
doors, as they had done so many times before, and 
fully decided that while they might forgive every 
one else who had wronged Abram they could never, 
never forgive Ruby Fletcher. 

" She's been too cold and proud," said Esther. 

" Too impudent, I say," added Mary. "And now 
we can hold our heads as high as she can, and I 
shall do it, too." 

In the midst of this unrelenting dissection of 
poor Ruby Abram tapped at the door, came in, and 
seated himself on the meal-chest as of yore. " It 
seems good to have you home again, girls," said he, 
"but we mustn't keep you here, I suppose. Now 
that all the money we raked together has come back 
again there isn't any reason why you shouldn't 
have part of it. I would rather have it go toward 
your education than in any other way. It doesn't 
look like ordinary money to me. But that wasn't 
exactly what I came in to say. We are all invited 
to spend to-morrow evening at Ruby's. Would you 
like to go ? " 

There was an ominous silence for a moment, and 
then Esther asked in a low tone, " Have you for- 
given her, Abram ? " 

He responded with a joyous laugh, "Forgiven' 
her ! I rather think I have. O, yes ; she was ' true 
blue,' but she has suffered too." 

" Well, Abram," said Maiy, in her impulsive way, 
" I've said a hundred times to-day that you're a 
hero; and now I think you're a saint ! " 

At that self-same hour Martha Thompson looked 
into the sitting-room at the squire's, where sat Mrs. 



288 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

Fletcher, Miss Hancock, and Ruby, busily complet- 
ing a dress. 

" Any body 'd know 'twas Thanksgivin' to-morrow 
just to look into our buttery," said she. 

"Come in, Martha," called Mrs. Fletcher, and 
" Come in " echoed the others. 

" Tell us what you've been doing." 

"Well" — and Martha, nothing loath, took a seat 
by the door — " I've made bread 'nd nut-cakes; pump- 
kin-pies an' apple-pies an' mince-pies ; raisin-cake, an' 
stri-ped cake an' frosted cake ; got my turkey ready 
for the oven an' cleaned up my kitchen. Yes, I must 
say I've done atol'able day's work, an' I'm real tired." 

" You poor, dear soul ! " said Mrs. Fletcher, " I'm 
afraid we put too much upon you, having Hiel's 
wedding here in addition to the big dinner. You 
couldn't have done more for him if he'd been your 
own brother. I suppose you'll miss him a good 
deal when he finally goes." 

A sniff of strong ammonia could not have re- 
vived Martha's drooping spirits more effectually. 

" Miss him ! " she repeated, " don't worry about 
my missin' that gawming* creature. I shall be able 
to keep things decently clean after he's out o' the 
way, I sh'd hope. But how he's goin' to get along 
with Mis' Follinsbee's cookin' I can't imagine. A 
man that likes good victuals 's well 's Hiel does — 
Its none o' my business, though." A short pause, 
and then with a dry laugh she continued : "What 
taste for a wcddin' dress ! Must seem queer to take 
off weeds and put on purple plaid; don't you think 
so, Miss Hancock?" 

* A word often heard in the northern New England States. 



THANKSGIVING AGAIN. 2S9 

" O, I don't know ! Sophronia Follinsbee never 
has had much to spend in dress, and perhaps she's 
a little puzzled to know just what is suitable. But 
I'm glad to see her enjoy herself after eating the 
bitter bread of poverty all her days ; and if she 
wants a lemon-colored silk and a pea-green shawl 
I wont object, though I don't believe she will. She 
reminds me of one of these late-blooming asters. 
You think they're all dead after frost comes, and 
then you'll see a bright purple one, perhaps, blossom- 
ing out as gay as you please. Never had a chance 
to blossom before ; that's the reason." 

Martha's face softened a little, but she gave a 
sniff of disapproval as she continued : 

" It takes you to see the good there is in folks, 
Miss Hancock. If I die before you do I want you 
to promise here an' now that you'll write what's put 
in the paper about me." 

" I will, Martha," replied Miss Hancock, smil- 
ingly, " for you and I are standing witnesses that 
women can be useful and happy even if they don't 
get married." 

" We couldn't spare Martha to be married, even 
if she wanted us to," said Ruby. 

"H'm! don't worry! I'm glad enough that I'm 
not the one to wear that purple dress to-morrow." 

They laughed, and shook out the neat wedding- 
dress, scrutinizing and criticising their work as 
women will, but Martha retreated to the kitchen. 

" Strange folks '11 be so pleased over a weddin'," 

said she to herself as she groped her way to the 

match-safe. " There's Ruby, as chirk 's can be, 

tellin' in her face every minute that she's made up 
19 



290 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

with Abram. Next thing she'll be goin' ofif. But I 
think it's a solemn subject ; " and Martha placed her 
hand over that strange organ called the heart with 
a half groan. 

If every thing did not occur on the following day 
just as it was planned it was not the fault of the 
weather. Blue sky, crisp cold air, and just snow 
enough for "good slippin','' as the farmers said, 
made up a typical Thanksgiving day. 

Hiel was married after the church service, and 
every one who witnessed the ceremony, even Mar- 
tha, agreed that " Mrs. Hiel " looked " remarkably 
pretty." 

And the dinners were eaten. This was only a 
repetition of former gastronomical feats, but no less 
surprising on that account. 

And in the evening Ruby had her young friends 
gathered in the big parlor, after the manner of a 
modern reunion. Every returned soldier who was 
able to leave his own fireside was present. Some 
were pale and weak, several were crippled, and a 
few others were on the eve of a return to their 
regiment. But for that one evening they sang the 
grand war songs and hymns that held memories of 
other days and other voices, told stories comical 
and pitiful, and feasted on dainties prepared by 
bountiful hands. 

And Abram once more sang with Ruby. The 
seemingly impossible had come to pass, and no one 
rejoiced in this token of " love's justice" more than 
Austin, who stood beside the piano, quietly observ- 
ant. Esther and Mary looked on also, but with 
limited approval, until, overborne by Ruby's sweet 



THANKSGIVING AGAIN. 291 

humility, they silently " grounded their arms " and 
yielded to the inevitable. And Esther was gener- 
ous enough to rejoice in her brother's happiness and 
self-forgetful enough to try to join in the songs, 
even while her thoughts wandered away to a lonely 
grave on a southern battle-field and her heart cried 
out for one who could never return. 



292 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES. 

AS has been already stated, the re-election of 
Lincoln was a source of encouragement and 
strength all through the North. And this was in- 
creased by his official acts, commencing with his 
" Message," issued early in December. It is proba- 
ble that more people perused this document than 
had ever before attempted a similar task. Mr. Lin- 
coln had one rare gift : he was able to make him- 
self understood ; hence the " common people " found 
no ambiguity in his terse sentences. As an exam- 
ple of this quality we copy here the closing section, 
which hints of real independence and unselfish- 
ness: 

" As to slavery, I repeat the declaration made a 
year ago, and that while I remain in my present 
position I shall not attempt to retract or modify 
the Emancipation Proclamation, nor shall I return to 
slavery any person who is free by the terms of that 
proclamation or by any of the acts of Congress. If 
the people should, by whatever mode or means, 
make it an executive duty to re-enslave such per- 
sons, another, not I, must be their instrument to 
perform it. In stating a single condition of peace 
I mean simply to say that the war will cease on 



S WORDS INTO PL O WSHA RES. 293 

the part of the government whenever it shall have 
ceased on the part of those who began it. 

" Abraham Lincoln." 

The nation set its seal to these sentiments when, 
the following month, slavery was abolished by law 
through the adoption of the famous " Thirteenth 
Amendment." 

Another omen of good was the great confidence 
felt in General U. S. Grant as a military leader. 
For more than a year, ever since the surrender of 
Vicksburg, in fact, he had been known all through 
the North as " Unconditional Surrender Grant." 
And the people, longing for victory and peace, built 
their hopes upon him. Throughout the winter a 
portion of the Union army was kept busy " peg- 
ging away " in the South, and to them it became 
more and more apparent that the " Confederacy " 
was nearly exhausted. Men and money were lack- 
ing. To keep their ranks filled they were obliged 
to conscript boys as young as fourteen and men as 
old as sixty — " robbing both the cradle and the 
grave," as General Butler said. Their resources 
were pitifully meager, and yet, with a courage born 
of desperation, they continued to fight, and men 
dared not say when the war would end. It was 
perfectly natural, then, for Abram to prepare again 
for enlisting and talk confidently of the " spring 
campaign." But the recruits with whom he in- 
tended to start on a day's notice were never called 
for. 

One victory followed another through the winter, 
and at length came the memorable April of '65. 



294 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

Sheridan's victory at Five Forks occurred on the 
first day of the month, the grand assault on Peters- 
burg the second, the occupation of Richmond on 
the third ; Sheridan routed Lee's forces on the 
sixth, and on the ninth Lee surrendered to Grant ! 

The conquest of Richmond was followed by such 
rejoicing as can hardly be described. The largest 
type and blackest ink of the Standard proclaimed 
" Richmond Ours ! After Nearly Four Years of 
Terrible Fighting the War is Virtually Over. Now 
4 Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth Peace, 
Good-will toward Men ! ' " 

Enthusiasm ran wild, and the eager hearts in dis- 
tant country towns like Gilead could hardly wait for 
the news which came singing over the wires and 
then found its way more slowly to the little post- 
office, thronged every evening to its utmost ca- 
pacity. 

Our soldier-boys were always ready to swing their 
caps and hurrah, nor were they ashamed when tears 
of joy rolled down their cheeks as the news of final 
victory was fully confirmed. 

But one evening an unusually large crowd col- 
lected, drawn together by a strange rumor. Captain 
John Bartlett, the brave leader of the ' Guards,' 
long mourned as dead, was coming home! His 
wife, who had never given him up, and who had 
persistently refused to wear crape, had been living 
with his widowed mother for a year in a little cot- 
tage near Judge Plumley's. Just what news she 
had received was not generally known, but the 
crowd was willing to wait " till the stage came in " 
to test the rumor for itself. And at length the old 



SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES. 295 

yellow stage, well splashed with mud from the four 
miles' drive, came whirling into the village. The 
red-faced, jolly driver wore an assuring smile as he 
drew his steaming horses up with even more than 
the usual flourish and prepared to throw the mail- 
bags out. Then the curtain of the stage door was 
lifted and a cheer from the crowd greeted the dark, 
worn face that smiled out upon them. It was surely 
he, their own young captain, but how changed ! A 
few of the boys who had gone out with him were 
there, and they clambered upon the steps and wheels 
to grasp his outstretched hand, asking question 
after question, until he said : 

" Bless your hearts, boys, let me see my wife and 
mother to-night, and then I'll talk with you a 
week ! " 

They fell back then, hurrahing again, as he was 
borne on to the open door and the waiting hearts 
of " home, sweet home." 

Captain Bartlett's experience proved to have been 
remarkable even in those eventful days. He had 
been taken prisoner, with many of his men, the pre- 
vious June, was conveyed with them to Anderson- 
ville, from whence he, with two others, escaped by 
tunneling. Recapture followed and imprisonment 
in a still viler " stockade." Preferring death by 
bullets or blood-hounds to starvation, he again suc- 
ceeded in escaping, and, after almost incredible suf- 
fering, in reaching a town in North Carolina. From 
that point he traveled about two hundred and sev- 
enty-five miles, through swamps and by-ways, over 
mountains and rivers, until, about the middle of 
March, he succeeded in reaching the Union lines in 



296 THE G I LEAD GUARDS. 

Tennessee. During all this time the negroes were 
his true and trusted friends. They never denied 
him food, shelter, nor guidance, and never betrayed 
his confidence. On one occasion, when surrounded 
by rebel picket-lines, three women took him over a 
mountain at their own peril, and so brought him 
into a safer route. 

But the nation's joy over victories won during 
the first two weeks of that memorable April was 
turned into mourning when, on the night of the 
fourteenth, Lincoln was assassinated ! The terrible 
news flashed all over the land, and it was received 
with a wail of sorrow that must have reached heaven 
itself. Every thing else was forgotten for the time 
in the overwhelming, irrepressible sorrow. 

"Don't speak to me!" groaned Captain Bart- 
lett, as he sat with head bowed upon his folded 
arms; "don't speak to me! I feel as if I hadn't 
any right to live when such a man dies ! " 

And, selfish as human nature is, there was many 
another man who would have been willing to die 
that day if by so doing he could have given life to 
the martyred President. Cold history can convey 
no idea of the universal mourning of that day, for 
history seldom dips its pen in sentiment. 

In the school known as " Hope Seminary" in these 
pages there were three hundred pupils. Among 
them were young men who had enlisted from there, 
served their time in the army, and returned — not 
all, alas ! — to finish their preparation for college. 
When the news reached the little village where the 
school was located the students were scattered here 
and there, enjoying their Saturday holiday. 



SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES. 297 

On a hill back of the school was a merry little 
party gathering fragrant trailing arbutus, first wild 
flower of the spring. A student suddenly ap- 
proached from the town, hurrying up from rock to 
rock in breathless haste. Coming near he gasped : 

" Lincoln is dead ! He was shot last night at a 
theater in Washington ! " 

" Impossible ! " cried the young men of the party, 
several of whom were returned soldiers. The report 
was confirmed, and they turned away one by one, 
weeping as for a near and dear friend ! 

No words seemed sufficient to express their feel- 
ings, and the entire party descended the hill in 
silence, bearing with them the beautiful blossoms as 
though for his burial. One, at least, of that group 
rarely inhales the fragrance of the arbutus without 
vividly recalling the shock of that tragic event and 
the sense of bereavement which followed it. 

But who can explain just why men, women, and 
children wept together over Lincoln's death? It 
was not simply because he was President. Beyond 
this was a genuine love for his unique personality, 
a gratitude for service conscientiously given to the 
nation, and a kind of adoration for the transparent 
soul that followed what he believed was the right. 
And until the nation forfeits forever its claim to the 
liberty for which he died that love and gratitude 
and adoration shall survive. 

But little more remains of our simple story. 
When, a little later, the great Union army was 
finally disbanded, more than a million men returned 
with music, with tattered flags, with honors, with 
universal acclaim to their homes and friends. The 



298 THE GILEAD GUARDS. 

prophetic song, "When Johnny comes marching 
home again," was literally fulfilled, and " cheers 
and shouts " rent the air. And Gilead received its 
own again, but not all ! In the long, long list of 
" unreturning brave " were names of loyal " Guards " 
who had fallen on battle-fields, starved in prisons, 
died in hospitals. They perished that we might 
enjoy a nation purified of slavery. 

One glimpse at a few of our old friends, and we 
must leave them. 

Mr. Slocum and the tribe he represented were 
very unpopular after the Confederacy ceased to 
exist. Their policy was to come boldly over to the 
support of the government, or to subside into a 
quiet but continual growl over the " administration." 
Mr. Slocum joined the latter class. Gradually he 
lost a large portion of his ill-gotten gains, his chil- 
dren were reckless and unfortunate, and life became 
a burden. 

Hiel's comment upon his case may be a suitable 
epitaph : " A man's bad deeds 'most always ketch 
up to him. Sometimes they take the longest way 
round, 'n' sometimes they cut 'cross lots, but, which- 
ever way 'tis, he needn't expect to get red of 'em." 

As for Hicl himself, he became a prosperous cit- 
izen and one of the pillars of the church, and never 
failed to consider his wedding-day one of the most 
fortunate of his life. 

Abram and Ruby inherited the Fletcher estate, 
and are peculiarly happy in each other and in their 
children. His taste for literary work has given him 
limited fame, and his native town delights in his 
accumulating honors. 



SIVORDS INTO PLOWSHARES. 299 

Austin became a business man in Boston, and in 
his present self one would hardly suspect the former 
youth who enlisted under age and sowed his wild 
oats in the army. His partner is one " John Henry," 
who is famous as a "Grand Army" man, with rare 
ability to " make a speech." 

Joe Armstrong never regained his former strength, 
and when Mr. Barstow was laid away in the village 
grave-yard Joe took his place. Under certain con- 
ditions peculiar to country towns he has retained 
this position a series of years, much to Vic's satis- 
faction, who is engaged in every good work with a 
zeal and persistence born of that first struggle and 
triumph in her younger days. 

David Douglas left the army broken in health, 
but recovered during the years spent in fitting for 
the ministry, in which he now finds his work. 
"She that was Mary Steele," as they say in Gil- 
ead, is his wife, and together they are helping build 
Christ's kingdom in the earth. 

And Benjie ? After a fitful flight into the great 
world, which always seemed so delightful to him — 
at a distance — Benjie returned to the farm, where 
he has introduced modern improvements to his 
heart's content. 

Esther is still Esther Steele. For her there was 
but one lover. Instead of husband and children she 
is identified with the grand reforms and charities of 
the present age. Realizing that the nation is not 
yet free from the thralldom of legalized sin, she is 
one of the stanch advocates of prohibition. She 
reaches a helping hand also to the colored women 
of the South, who are slowly struggling toward a 



300 THE GILEAD- GUARDS. 

higher and holier plane of living ; and, not content 
with this, her sympathies extend to the unsaved of 
other lands, and her voice pleads for the mental 
and spiritual elevation of women every-where. But 
when Decoration Day comes, with its sadly signifi- 
cant rites, other duties are laid aside, and if it be 
possible she makes a pilgrimage to her native town, 
finds her way to the old grave-yard, and lays upon 
a certain grave her floral tribute. Don's mother 
rests there, but the simple monument which marks 
the spot is sacred to mother and son. 



THE END. 



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